How to Train Your Dragon
Starring: Voices of Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill
Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language
When it comes to CGI-animated films, the conversation generally steers towards “Pixar this” and “Pixar that.” But for the past fifteen years, two studios have dominated the CGI-animated feature film market—Pixar and DreamWorks Animation. The problem is that DreamWorks Animation tends to be thought of as the red-headed step-child. While both studios have turned out hit after box office hit, only Pixar has achieved simultaneous critical success. For too long, DreamWorks Animation has had to live in the shadow of Pixar. All that has changed with DreamWorks Animation’s release of How to Train Your Dragon, a charming and adorable adventure comedy that has given the studio the critical success it has always struggled to attain.
How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). Hiccup has always wanted to become a strong Viking warrior, like his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), but his small stature, scrawny frame, and meek personality have forced him to apprentice for the local weaponsmith (Colin Ferguson). He longs to become a warrior to seek his father’s approval, and to do so, he plans to kill the deadliest-known dragon, the elusive Night Fury. During one of the frequent dragon attacks on their village, Hiccup launches a net to capture the Night Fury. He succeeds, but since no one saw it, no one believes him. The following day he discovers the tangled dragon. He prepares to kill it, but he cannot—it’s just not who he is. He instead frees the injured dragon and attempts to help it heal. Though apprehensive at first, the dragon, who Hiccup affectionately names Toothless, eventually comes to trust him. Hiccup soon realizes that dragons have been greatly misunderstood. Now he has to prove to his father and his village that dragons and Vikings can peacefully co-exist before the dragon-Viking war goes too far.
Everything about this film clicks. It has a broad range of appeal, with humor and a story that can be enjoyed by all ages, men and women, boys and girls alike. The overall look to the film is something that hasn’t been seen before in a DreamWorks Animation film. The textures, scenery, and character designs are the most realistic looking the studio has ever created. The cinematography also proves to be a visual delight. The scenes featuring Hiccup riding Toothless through the air are an absolute thrill. Each scene of flight is begging to be turned into a rollercoaster ride at an amusement park.
The voice cast behind the characters is also a highlight of this film. Whereas previous DreamWorks Animation titles have relied on A-list celebrity superstars to carry their films (e.g. the “Shrek” films, the “Madagascar” films, “Kung Fu Panda”), How to Train Your Dragon makes the wise choice in casting voice actors that are name and face recognizable, but none have achieved the celebrity status that would overshadow the film. By allowing the story and animation to carry the film, the voice actors aren’t burdened by over-the-top, wacky performances. Their voices suit their characters perfectly, and add a level of authenticity and emotion that is more than welcome.
How to Train Your Dragon has truly brought DreamWorks Animation up to Pixar’s playing level. If they can continue to create films with this kind of compassion and pedigree, the friendly rivalry between DreamWorks Animation and Pixar is about to get really interesting. VUDU is proud to offer How to Train Your Dragon, now available to own for $14.99, and in high-quality HD and HDX beginning October 29th.
DID YOU KNOW?
Acclaimed and award-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins served as a visual consultant to How to Train Your Dragon, assisting in the overall look of the film in order to give it a live-action feel. This is the second time he has done so with an animated film, the first being Pixar’s 2008 film, WALL-E.