The idea of having a pet dragon is the dream of every fantasy fan. It’s an intelligent, powerful, strong creature that can protect you with its claws and fiery breath, and it can fly you anywhere on its back. In Dreamworks’s latest animated movie, How To Train Your Dragon, a young viking boy named Hiccup gets the opportunity to live that dream. The latest in a long line of awkward, misfit heroes (see also the magical Mr. Harry Potter), the rest of the vikings just don’t understand Hiccup. He’s the son of the viking leader, Stoick, but rather than becoming the mighty dragon slayer that his father wishes that he’d be, Hiccup is busy inventing crazy contraptions.
One night when the dragons are attacking the viking village (as they do on a regular basis, which is why vikings and dragons are two sides of a seemingly endless battle) Hiccup pulls out his lasso-shooting device to take down the fastest, most feared type of dragon: the Night Fury. Unfortunately, things go less-than-smoothly and Hiccup’s bumbling leads to a chain reaction that leaves the village in ruins. In hopes of turning his son’s life around, Stoick enrols Hiccup in the training program for dragon-slayers. On that same day, Hiccup sneaks off to the spot where he believes the Night Fury landed on the previous night. Lo and behold, he ends up finding the black dragon lassoed and injured.
What follows is the tale of a boy and his dragon (named Toothless), which he nurses back to health. As they form a bond (the old-fashioned, no-ponytail way), Hiccup learns a lot about dragons which allows him to excel in his dragon-slaying class. However, Hiccup also learns that it’s not in the nature of dragons to attack vikings and that the two groups do not need to be in constant conflict.
While it’s not the first time this kind of story has made it to the big screen, this one is told with a lot of charm, wit and entertaining fun. Jay Baruchel plays Hiccup and he’s perfect as the smart but gawky young hero with his constantly-pubescent voice. The other actors, who are not nearly as distinctive, include America Ferrera and Jonah Hill as Hiccup’s classmates. The other prominent voice would be Gerard Butler, who gets to reclaim his natural Scottish accent as Hiccup’s dad Stoick. (Oddly it’s never explained why Hiccup speaks like an American, or why vikings would be Scottish, either.)
The movie is based on a children’s book of the same name and I’m betting that’s where they got the elaborate information about the various species of dragons (which I enjoyed a lot). The animation really brings them all to wonderful life, not to mention the breath-taking flight scenes which rival many of the scenes from recent CGI blockbuster, Avatar. Despite the “classic” story arc and the rather pedestrian title, this is a very enjoyable movie for the young and young-at-heart. (4.5 out of 5)