“Iron Man 2” is about to blast off, but “How to Train Your Dragon” has sort of become the hottest topic at the box office so far this year. Yes, “Alice in Wonderland,” took the world by storm, but “Dragon” started small and has been raking in viewers every weekend since, showing legs that are like the second cousin-twice-removed of ‘Avatar.’ So it is in this light that I decide to review “How to Train Your Dragon,” which I went to see only curiously out of its sweeping success.
Somewhat disappointingly, “How to Train Your Dragon” is not the heralded classic its Tomatometer rating might suggest. The Dreamworks Animation feature has to be experienced on a purely visceral and visual level. The 3D factor really helps nudge this one a cut above the rest, making a stronger impression than “Kung Fu Panda” and “Monsters vs. Aliens,” but still never reaching Pixar-level storytelling.
The plot involves a young blacksmith, Hiccup, born to the greatest viking in all the land. Hiccup may be born of vikings, but he has little violence in his blood, as much as he tries to be the warrior his father is. In an attempt to showcase some valor, Hiccup tries a shot at catching himself a dragon, and does so. No one believes his story, but the young lad ends up training his newfound pet, Toothless, in secret, learning all the tricks and trades of the dragon population, which allows him to make 180-transition in his training simulations. Over the course of the boy and dragon’s growing bond, Hiccup learns that the dragons really aren’t savage beasts, and decides he must try to stop the viking population from attacking these harmless creatures.
The story sounds as though it would appeal on an emotional level, but it never quite gets there. The plot is very standard in the traditional sense of the animation universe, and I think the movie is best enjoyed as an entertaining 3D wallop, which it most certainly is. Toothless, the dragon, is very cute, and the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless is no more than cute. Perhaps I’ve been getting used to movies like “Up” and “Wall-E” that have had the opportunity to hamper my judgment with animated movies, but simply put, “How to Train Your Dragon” is not quite up to that quality-level of filmmaking–and there’s nothing wrong with that. Dreamworks provides another serviceable entry to their canon that provides eye-popping action sequences in 3D that make a good argument for that extra dimension. Audiences should be thrilled, entertained, and will certainly enjoy themselves for the movie is certainly never boring, but I didn’t find it to be as emotionally resonant as it thinks it is.
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