How to Train Your Dragon

How to Train Your Dragon

***1/2

Reviewed by: Anton Bitel

For more than 300 years, the Viking settlers of Berk have been at war with the dragons who steal their sheep and burn their homes. The opening sequence of How To Train Your Dragon shows a nocturnal raid on the village, with massive bearded men fighting for their livelihood and their very lives against a relentless squadron of fire-breathing monsters.

What ought to be terrifying is instead hilarious - thanks in part to the slightly goofy appearance of Vikings and dragons alike (animated in full Tru 3D, and IMAX 3D where available), but mostly to the ennui-tinged narration of protagonist Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), who not only regards the events as part of the banal texture of his day-to-day existence, but even uses them as yet another opportunity to moan about his sense of adolescent angst and alienation.

Copy picture

Hiccup's tough chieftain father Stoick (Gerard Butler) and teacher Gobber (Craig Ferguson) might thunder their lines in broad Scots accents, but everyone of Hiccup's generation looks - and sounds – like an American teen, and is cast straight from the School of Apatow, making their Dark Age rites of passage carry a modern resonance, as well as some incongruously relatable comedy. Although weedy Hiccup wants nothing more than to impress his father and to shoulder his dragon-slaying heritage, he is a rebel in waiting, realising after he injures and downs the 'night fury' Toothless (think a giant, winged, black axolotl) that he prefers to be friends with the flaming, phallic other. Training his dragon, however, may prove easier than facing daddy with the treacherous truth.

The plot that follows, dividing the hero's allegiances between destructive patriarchy and misunderstood natives, merging man with flying beast, turning enemies into lovers, and even throwing in rocky towers that seem to float in the mist, is like Avatar (2009), only with more (and better) jokes. Adapted rather loosely from Cressida Cowell's 2003 novel by the writing/directing team that brought us Lilo and Stitch (2002), in fact How To Train Your Dragon, with its father-son conflict, its teen empowerment, and its bromides about being true to yourself (and embracing the other), is rooted in motifs all too familiar from countless other family films. It is, however, fast and funny enough to let even its derivativeness take wing – and, as any seven-year-old can tell you, dragons are cool.

In short, How To Train Your Dragon is hardly original or memorable, and you would barely notice the absence of the 3D – but the film is beautifully animated, joyfully funny, and the adolescent adventure and Apatow-ian angst certainly never drag on. Avatar (2009), only with more - and better - jokes. Adapted rather loosely from Cressida Cowell's 2003 novel by the writing/directing team that brought us Lilo And Stitch (2002), in fact How To Train Your Dragon, with its father-son conflict, its teen empowerment and its bromides about being true to yourself (and embracing the other), is rooted in motifs all too familiar from countless other family films. It is, however, fast and funny enough to let even its derivativeness take wing – and, as any seven- year-old can tell you, dragons are cool.

In short, How To Train Your Dragon is hardly original or memorable, and you would barely notice the absence of the 3D – but the film is beautifully animated, joyfully funny, and the adolescent adventure and Apatow-ian angst certainly never drag on.

Reviewed on: 01 Apr 2010
Share this with others on...
How to Train Your Dragon packshot
A young viking becomes an unlikely dragon master.
Amazon link

Read more How to Train Your Dragon reviews:

Leanne McGrath ****

Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Writer: Cressida Cowell, Dean DeBlois, Adam F Goldberg, Chris Sanders, Peter Tolan

Starring: Voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, TJ Miller

Year: 2010

Runtime: 98 minutes

BBFC: PG - Parental Guidance

Country: US

Festivals:


Search database:


If you like this, try:

Avatar
Kung Fu Panda
Lilo & Stitch
Shrek