How to Train Your Dragon
Released March 25.
Pixar has had a string of animated hits, critically and commercially, unrivalled since Disney’s heyday. DreamWorks animation was never going to challenge that dynasty but their latest is spritely and energetic, and revels in the 3D joy of simulated flight. That it doesn’t strive for the wit, invention and subtlety of Up or Wall-E is a moot point.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is an 11-year old Viking whose vernacular seems acquired from too many viewings of Juno. He lives on a coastal village under constant threat from the vicious, titular fire-breathing reptiles. Instead of raping and pillaging, it has been tradition amongst the clan of enormous bearded warriors, which include Hiccup’s father Stoick (Gerard Butler), to hunt these feared creatures. To do so is a rite of passage for every young Viking. Hiccup is not so sure after downing the dreaded “Night Wing,” who, upon closer inspection, is less a feared predator than a cross between a crafty cat and a lizard. His budding friendship with “toothless” is at odds with his training as a dragonslayer, though his first hand knowledge gives him an edge over the impetuous tomboy – and romantic interest – Astrid (Ugly Betty‘s America Ferrera).
The story, which wears its young heart on its sleeve, goes where it must. Both adults and children will instead be focused more on the colourful 3D animation (famed cinematographer Roger Deakins is credited as visual consultant), clever humour and the magnificent, heroic score by John Powell; only the most jaded and cynical could not be roused by its energy and scope. An over reliance on action – however well constructed and animated – at the expense of character is the only dampener.
What lingers are the swoops and rolls of soaring flight as Hiccup and toothless skip over the waves and climb into the stratosphere. For those few moments, you’ll feel like you’ve come along for the ride.