Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) aspires to be a dragon hunter like his dad, Stoick (Gerard Butler), and his fellow vikings. But when he discovers an injured dragon, the two become unlikely friends and discovers that there is much more to dragons than he expected.
When my friend told me How to Train Your Dragon was probably the best animated movie ever made, my reply was, “That’s a bold statement.” I mean, how can you beat the heart of Toy Story or the cleverness of Shrek? But he insisted. After finally watching it, I must say he isn’t far off. It’s not the best animated movie in my opinion, but it is definitely up there as one of my favorites.
First off, the film starts with a bang. The opening scene does well to both set up the conflict between the vikings and the dragons, as well as introduce all the main characters. It’s a giant set piece that would give most action movie openings a run for their money. There are explosions. Lots and lots of explosions.
The producers could not have picked a better voice cast for Dragon. Baruchel’s dry tone and sarcasm fit with his character perfectly. Butler was born to play a viking. He does fantastic as both the tough dragon slayer and the loving father. Other voices include Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, TJ Miller, and Kristen Wiig.
Mintz-Plasse’s character, Fishlegs, is large and round, the complete opposite of what you would expect from his voice. Fishlegs is the dragon guru, and rambles off stats Dungeons and Dragons style. Miller and Wiig play the twins Tuffnut and Ruffnut, respectively, who attempt to out-annoy each other. Ferrera voices Astrid, a girl trying to prove she is just as tough as the boys. And Snotlout, played by Hill, spends the entire movie to to impress Astrid. My favorite, though, is Fergurson’s Gobber, the one-armed, one-legged teacher who believes that trolls “steal your socks, but only the left one.”
With an ensemble of great comedic actors, it’s only natural that the dialog would be funny, too. The best stuff happens when this group is all together and they can riff off each other. They come of with some pretty clever banter. But what is even more impressive is the movie’s use of visual gags. When one of your two main characters is a mute dragon, it can be difficult to crack jokes. But Dragon proves that you don’t need words to be funny.
Animation technology is continually progressing, and it is important for animation studios to adapt and improve along with it. With that said, this film is one of the best looking animated features I have seen. What sets it apart from previous animated movies is the attention to detail and the use of lighting. Contrasts are utilized very effectively, really giving a sense of depth.
On a quick note, the score, composed by John Powell, is amazing. It adds that extra touch to an already awesome film.
If I were to have one gripe with the film, it would be the father-son dynamic between Stoick and Hiccup has been used over and over in film. Stoick is the tough dad who has a soft spot for his son; Hiccup is the physically weak kid who tries to follow in his father’s footsteps but fails to keep up with the high expectations from being his son. This is the driving force for countless movies and their success has been varied. Dragons, however, utilized this cliché to great effect, so I can’t knock it too hard.
Anyone who enjoys animated movies should check out How to Train Your Dragon. A great cast, amazing animation, and funny dialog and visual gags makes this film one of the best animated films of the last few years.