Who among us didn’t have a dragon phase (or are still in it)? Exactly. This movie takes this childhood fascination and transforms it into something wonderful, magical—in 3D, no less. (It’s too bad I only watched it on my laptop.) Whereas everything around us today feels like it’s all about marketing to the largest possible audience, it is a rare, honest, feel-good film: it doesn’t try to be anything else, and it works that way.
Let me summarize. Hiccup is an awkward boy. The son of the chief Viking in his village, he has striven all his life to prove himself worthy of his race and his father. On an island in constant war with dragons, every kid dreams of becoming a great dragon slayer, and Hiccup is no exception. The problem is, when he finally gets his chance, he finds himself incapable of hurting a dragon and instead befriends it, realizing that there is so much more to the creatures than he had been taught to assume.
Although a bit lacking in the how-to aspect, this movie is everything else it promises to be—bright, charming, thrilling, sweeping—at times even scary. In a word: it will make you feel like a kid again. Armed with clever characters and an even cleverer script, it crawls its way into the viewer’s heart so well that by the end of the film you’re willing to overlook its faults. Not that there are a lot. How to Train Your Dragon combines all of the good of children’s films and takes with it hardly any of the bad. Its characters are a tad stereotypical (easily identifiable), its plotline predictable (anticipatable), but who’s complaining? Endearing characters, witty lines, great graphics, swooping music—to a kid that’s all you really need. To quote my nine-year-old brother Sean’s first words at the end of the movie: “That was bee-yootiful.”
‘This is Berk. It’s twelve days north of Hopeless and a few degrees south of Freezing to Death.’
‘Excuse me, barmaid! I’m afraid you brought me the wrong offspring! I ordered an extra-large boy with beefy arms, extra guts and glory on the side. This here, this is a talking fish-bone!’
‘The sun was in my eyes, Astrid! What do you want me to do, block out the sun? I can do that you know!’
‘We’re Vikings. It’s an occupational hazard.’
‘This is Berk. It snows nine months out of the year, and hails the other three. What little food grows here is tough and tasteless. The people that grow here, even more so. The only upsides are the pets. While other places have ponies, or parrots…we have dragons.’