I went in with pretty high expectations for this movie. I thought it looked pretty good from the trailers, and then it started getting really good reviews (one of the lowest being from Travis of The Movie Encyclopedia, who thought it had some tone issues, but was still a pretty good movie). Needless to say, this could have easily been a huge disappointment for me. Luckily, it wasn't.

How To Train Your Dragon takes us back to the good ol' days when Vikings with Scottish accents ruled the seas and partook in a never-ending battle against dragons. OK, so we aren't going for realism, but we knew that going in. I mean, seriously... that's the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. Vikings with Scottish accents? Pfft... they were totally Norwegian/German. But I digress. We focus on the scrawny-but-smart Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) who one day dreams of becoming a dragon-slayer like his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), and getting a girlfriend, particularly from Astrid (America Ferrera). But he's stuck in the smithy with Gobber (Craig Ferguson), while the likes of Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Tuffnut (T.J. Miller), and Ruffnut (Kristin Wiig) are out training to fight the monsterous beasts. But when Hiccup wounds a dangerous Night Fury dragon (and nobody believes him), he goes out to find it, only to begin him on a journey that gains him a reptilian friend, raises his understanding of the opposition, and increases his popularity back home.

The movie takes on some interesting themes such as being an outcast, building relationships between peers and family, learning teamwork, and even a bit of living with disabilities. And the movie works with these themes well, allowing anyone of any age to connect with the film and its characters.

And the characters are great, even down to the secondary folks. First the voice acting. I actually wasn't annoyed at Jonah Hill, as he wasn't playing his usual schtick, and I didn't even realize until about halfway through that McLovin was the voice of one of the characters (though I did recognize the voice... it just took me a while to place it). Gerard Butler did amazingly well, too, with me forgetting it was even him until near the end of the movie (and I swear I saw the animated guy talk from the corner of his mouth). And Craig Ferguson was just funny. But I think the most surprising character for me was Astrid. Not because of America Ferrera, who I didn't realize was her voice at all until the credits, but because of the character herself. She wasn't your damsel in distress, nor was she the total strong-girl stereotype with no soft spot. She had a fair balance of both. For most of the movie she's the tough girl, angry with Hiccup for taking the spotlight. But then her emotions start to sway at the right times, though she doesn't completely turn tail to her old ways immediately, either. It made her a more realistic tough-girl character, which was nice.

Then there are Hiccup and Toothless (the main dragon). Jay Baruchel brings a deadpan humor to the character that really was funny, but he also made him endearing and likable. You wanted him to succeed. And when he's hurting (emotionally), you are, too. Toothless was another surprise, much like Astrid. I suppose what I was expecting, at least from the trailers, was your cutesy animal character that seems dangerous at first, but then really shows his lovable side and that's about all he has to it. This isn't so. No, Toothless has the cute side, but it's always right underneath the dangerous side. So you know that at any minute, he can either share his food or bite your head off, depending on how he feels. In other words, they kept his animalistic nature and didn't dumb him down for the kiddos.

The humor and the action varied depending on the scene. Sometimes the humor was a deadpan comment, sometimes it was aimed at the kids, sometimes it was aimed for somebody a little older. But I think there was a good enough mix of all types to where it seemed balanced (as even the jokes for the kids weren't really silly or stupid. I never once rolled my eyes or felt left out due to a bad joke). The action was similar--it depended on the mood of the scene. There were the lighthearted training scenes where it was more slapstick. But then there were the dangerous, life-threatening battles that had you on the edge of your seat. And, amazingly, there was more than one of the latter. Usually you just get the 'dark' climax battle at the end of the movie, but there are quite a few dark battle scenes strewn in throughout the film, helping to keep the film balanced.

And then there are the visuals. There really are times when the animation is jaw-dropping, which is mostly surprising due to the basic animation of the Vikings or the dragons themselves. Most of the stunning scenes come either during flight scenes or scenes that deal with large amounts of fire. I'd equate the difference as almost like playing a video game and having the difference between gameplay graphics and cutscene graphics. And the 3D version just escalates it all, really pulling you into the world--particularly the flight scenes, which are just stunning. There was actually one moment where Toothless and Hiccup are diving down toward the water, and I actually felt like I was going down on a roller coaster or something. Insanity.

Overall, this turned out to be a wonderful film. I really couldn't find much at all wrong with it, and I really don't want to. Even the music is fun, taking a bit of a Scottish sound. So I'll leave it at that. I strongly recommend this movie, and I really recommend it in 3D to get the full atmosphere of it. Excellent movie.

Royale With Cheese

(P.S. I actually believe this is the first movie of the year I have given this rating.)


  1. I love this movie...nice share!

  2. Knowledge is power in this film, and I always love a good pro-intellect story; even better, this is a pro-animal, pro-empathy story, as well. Deep love of Toothless the dragon as well.


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