How To Train Your Dragon is a sweet David vs Goliath tale that has the heart that most animated films don't bother to attempt to find.
Poor DreamWorks. Despite an enviable back catalogue of entertaining and successful animated films, they just can't seem to emerge from the genius laden shadow of Pixar, as no matter what they come up with it is quickly forgotten when their great competition once again pushes the bar beyond their reach.
This year may be no different for DreamWorks: when the film that everyone wants to see, more commonly known as Toy Story 3, reaches the silver screen, How to Train Your Dragon will get swept under the table. A shame, considering it's the best thing the studio have done for years.
Adapted from Cressida Cowell's 2003 book of the same name, How to Train Your Dragon is set on the mythical island of Berk where fighting dragons is a way of life. The story focuses on Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), an offbeat teenager with his heart in the right place who is disliked by his tribe after one to many cockups. His skinny, awkward frame and weird demeanor doesn't sit well with his burly, Viking leader father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), who ignores his constant pleas to follow in his footsteps and become a dragon slayer.
During one Vikings vs Dragons battle, Hiccup ignores his father's instructions and traps a dragon, but no one believes him. After discovering the trapped dragon deep in the woods, he can't quite bring himself to kill it and instead builds a relationship with 'Toothless', which makes him a far better dragon tamer then he or anyone else could have believed.
How to Train Your Dragon doesn't start well. All indications in the first 15 minutes point to a severely dull film that wouldn't entertain a five year old let alone an adult. The jokes fall flat, producing only a half giggle instead of a guffaw, whilst the images of 5ft wide Vikings in 3D is just plain weird.
The complete 180 occurs when the film abandons hope of becoming a laugh-a-minute gagfest and becomes an endearing, sweet and surprisingly affecting kids film with a subtle underlying message that succeeds in never overriding the story.
The return of 3D has spawned many debates as to whether it's the game changer that will send the masses back into the cinema or an annoying gimmick that succeeds in only giving you a migraine. How to Train Your Dragon won't go far in changing anyone's mind about 3D, but it may just be the first 3D film you'll it through where the extra dimension actually enhances the film. Several sequences involving Hiccup atop of his dragon friend, soaring through clouds and around mountains play out as long POV shots that turn the film into a theme park ride. In a good way.
Hiccup's unwilling group of kronies provide a few giggles and it's nice to hear Gerard Butler and Craig Ferguson back to their native Scottish accents instead of that weird transatlantic tongue they've acquired over the years. But above all else, How to Train Your Dragon is a sweet David versus Goliath tale that has the heart that most animated films don't bother to attempt to find.
Dreamworks films are so hit and miss you never know what to expect.
Its sweet center makes up for the lack of laughs. Oh yeah, the 3D is pretty good too.
Not a classic, but an enjoyable romp nonetheless.