Dreamworks Animation has had some hits and misses over the years, but their latest film, How To Train Your Dragon, manages to not only capture a great adventure on screen, but do it in a fun way with a lot of heart. Tough combination to pull off, but they managed. And the fact that the movie pulled in nearly $44 million in its opening weekend has to count for something!
We saw How to Train Your Dragon in 3D on an IMAX screen at an AMC theater in Glendale, Arizona last Friday night. And though sometimes IMAX makes things too big to keep track of everything going on, I enjoyed this one. And the 3D was used to pretty good effect (as opposed to Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland which used it poorly).
The movie centers around a young Viking named Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel, who's having a very busy year for movies!) and his unorthodox approach to killing the dragons who have been razing his island village for seven generations. He helps out Gobber, the village blacksmith (voiced by Craig Ferguson), and creates little mechanical wonders to help him kill a dragon and take his place among the village warriors. Those warriors include Stoick, the village chief (voiced by Gerard Butler), who also happens to be Hiccup's dad.
During one dragon raid, Hiccup uses one of his devices and hits one of the beasties attacking the village — a fast, invisible dragon known as a Night Fury. Though no one in the village believes he hit it, Hiccup heads off into the woods to try and track down where it may have landed. And when he finds it, his experiences with the dragon change everything he believes in.
Based on a series of books by Cressida Cowell, the story in the film has changed a bit from the novels (from what I've heard, people don't ride the dragons in the series), but the author was pleased with the results. We'll have to pick the books up and give them a read now that we've seen the movie version.
Is the story original? Yes and no. At the heart of the story, it's a matter of self-discovery and proving your own worth to yourself and the people who care about you. For a movie aimed at kids, I have to say it's a great message regardless of whether it's been done before. But the concept of having a tale of dragons and Vikings is definitely pretty cool.
The animation was solid, the characters were fun, and flying with Hiccup and Toothless was a blast in 3D. I know the adults I was with enjoyed it just as much as the kids did. And the voice acting was very solid: Butler, Ferguson, Baruchel, America Ferrera (Ugly Betty), Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, and more. It's tough to get a convincing Scottish accent unless you're a Scot like Butler and Ferguson and they did it beautifully.
If you're looking for a good movie to take the kids to, it's tough to beat How to Train Your Dragon at the moment. I know we'll be picking it up on DVD when it's released, but we might have to sneak another viewing at the theater before it disappears!