Genre: CG Animation
Director: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois
Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher
Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, T.J. Miller
RunTime: 1 hr 28 mins
Released By: UIP
Official Website: http://www.howtotrainyourdragon.com/
Opening Day: 25 March 2010
the studio that brought you “Shrek,” “Madagascar”
and “Kung Fu Panda” comes “How to Train
Your Dragon.” Set in the mythical world of burly Vikings
and wild dragons, and based on the book by Cressida Cowell,
the action comedy tells the story of Hiccup, a Viking teenager
who doesn’t exactly fit in with his tribe’s longstanding
tradition of heroic dragon slayers.
Hiccup's world is turned upside down when he encounters a
dragon that challenges he and his fellow Vikings to see the
world from an entirely different point of view.
Despite the crowd-pleasing combination of “Shrek”, “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda”, you can’t greet every DreamWorks animation with the same enthusiasm as you would a Disney/Pixar animation. After all, for every “Shrek”, “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda”, there’s always “Shrek 3”, “Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa” and “Monsters Vs Aliens” which besides their smart-alecky pop-culture references, were in fact lacking in both story and character and ultimately shallow disappointing letdowns.
That’s why this reviewer is very much pleased to announce that this latest from DreamWorks Animation is destined to join the ranks of the former list rather than the latter. It might not be immediately obvious from the film’s bland marketing, but “How to Train Your Dragon”, based on the Cressida Cowell’s bestselling series of kid-lit books, is a sensationally entertaining adventure that will delight and thrill audiences of all ages.
From co-directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, this fairy-tale like fantasy blends two classic themes- the father-son polemic and the owner-pet bond- into a winning recipe. The father-son polemic describes the relationship between Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), an awkward teenage Viking with the figure of a fish-bone, and Stoick (Gerard Butler), the macho and fearless Viking leader whose fulltime occupation is dragon slaying. Though he loves Hiccup as a father would love his child, Stoick is also quite obviously embarrassed by his son’s ability, or the lack of it, as a dragon slayer.
Instead, Hiccup suspects that dragons may not be as fearsome as his tribe would believe, so he sets out to capture the mother of them all- the Night Fury, which turns out to be an elusive pitch-black breed which little is known of. Like Sanders and DeBlois’ earlier “Lilo and Stitch”, Hiccup begins to develop a friendship with his pet dragon he names Toothless, feeding him, building him an artificial tail and saddling him up. But of course, his greatest challenge would be convincing his fellow tribe members- especially his father- that dragons aren’t the terrible enemies they have always feared.
It is firmly to the filmmakers’ achievement that this bond between man and animal forms the true spirit of the film, a stirring emotional connection that under the skilful hands of Sanders and DeBlois develops both spontaneously and genuinely. Though the film devotes less time to the relationship between father and son, their eventual reconciliation is by no means less moving, even if we’ve already seen and heard countless other such stories. Indeed, this reviewer dares say that among all the DreamWorks animations that have come and gone, this one ranks as the one with the most heart.
Not only that, it probably ranks as one of the most exhilarating, if not the most. Quickly casting away doubts that its action scenes may be akin to the slightly messy and unfocused opening battle, the film soars as soon as Hiccup mounts his dragon and takes to the skies. It also makes ample use of the 3D format to grab you onto a vicarious rollercoaster through the skies and into the clouds- and I might dare say, leaves you breathless with excitement.
Amidst the exhilaration, it’s easy to overlook some of the other accomplishments of the film that are no less outstanding. Chief among them is the character design of the bevy of dragons in the film, each of them as appealing and distinct from the other - the pig-like Gronckle, the two-headed Zippleback, and not forgetting of course the feline-looking Night Fury- and set against a colourful backdrop of hues and shadows that is a pure visual dazzle. The talented voice cast also add to the fun, including the gruff Irish accented Gerard Butler and his fellow Irishman Craig Ferguson, the effervescent America Ferrarra as the young spunky Viking girl Astrid whom Hiccup favours and the equally vivacious Jay Baruchel as the titular hero.
If there was any doubt that DreamWorks could ever produce an animation on par with the frontrunners Disney/Pixar, then let those fears be forever put to rest- “How to Train Your Dragon” ranks right up there as one of the best animations of all time. Its grand sense of adventure, combined with the universal themes of friendship and love, make it an utterly enjoyable experience- and definitely well worth the extra dimension of fun and laughter in glorious 3D.
near-perfect, sensationally thrilling action adventure that
you should not and must not miss)
Review by Gabriel Chong