How to Train Your Dragon
Written and directed by: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson
DreamWorks Animation keeps bouncing around between quality animated features, and total dreck (looking at you, sequels, threequels, and Monsters vs Aliens). The latest offering, How to Train Your Dragon, thankfully falls into the former category, in large part due to how totally fucking awesome dragons are, right?
Now let’s get one thing straight: DreamWorks is not on par with Pixar. I’m sorry, furries, but it’s true (and this is coming from the guy who thought Kung Fu Panda deserved the Oscar over WALL·E). However, they are getting there, and on a technical level they’re doing some amazing work. Dragon is a gorgeous film full of vibrance, well animated characters, and some very pretty clouds.
Getting the writer and director of Lilo & Stitch is brilliant. Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders know how to create characters that dance around between adorable and ferocious, while staying hilarious throughout. Toothless is so fucking cute that I didn’t even look up porn of him afterwards. He’s too precious!
And while Toothless is the star of the show, the human characters are pretty great too. With the exception of America Ferrera, everyone puts a lot of life and humor into their parts. There are some genuinely hilarious moments (“Your mother’s breastplate”), punctuated by the charming awkwardness of Jay Baruchel as Hiccup.
It’s a shame the story was so basic, using nearly identical elements from two previous animated films, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs and Kung Fu Panda. A hopeless loser (Hiccup/Flint/Po) raised by a single dad (Stoick/Tim/Chinese duck) that doesn’t approve of their alternative lifestyle. They discover a hidden talent (training dragons/making it rain food/kung fu) that causes a lot of trouble, but ultimately it’s their quirks, and the help of a new friend (Astrid/Sam/Furious Five) that helps them save the day. All three films are solid. They’re using a somewhat cliche, but definitely well structured plot. And none of them really feel the same because they have very different styles and humor, but it’s starting to get noticeable.
How to Train Your Dragon very well may be the best film DreamWorks has made to date (once again, coming from the guy who owns a Tai Lung stuffed toy [it’s not for that!]). Hell, it may be the best dragon movie I’ve ever seen, since they haven’t made a Dragon Tales movie yet. Dragon is funny, it’s exciting, and it radiates charm like fire breath. If DreamWorks can start working towards some more sophisticated storytelling, they may finally match Pixar.