By Marco Chacon
Apr 10, 2010 08:00 PM EST

How To Train Your Dragon Theatrical Review

How To Train Your Dragon Theatrical Review
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The trailers for How To Train Your Dragon present a story to us that are easily grasped -- there is a Viking outpost that is beset by dragons. A very un-Viking like boy (Jay Baruchel) uses his brain, rather than his lacking brawn to shoot down a dragon and then befriends it. We can see from the previews that he will come to realize these beasts are misunderstood, and this being a family-friendly CGI cartoon, will lead his people to a greater harmonious understanding between dragon-kind and humans.

I wasn't sure where the dragon-fighting training sequences fit into that, but it didn't seem relevant. I knew the whole story from the trailer and everything else was just window dressing. While I wish I could say that the film broke entirely new ground or did something jaw-dropping, but I cannot. But to an extent, you do get what it looked like.

On the other hand, where the film surprised me was the care and craft it took with pacing to get us where we knew it was all going. The dragon -- modeled after Stitch from Disney's Lilo and Stitch (the L&S production team took over the project half way through) -- is not instantly in love with the boy. There is a reason the boy and dragon bond that makes perfect sense in the narrative of the movie and gives them a reason to work together.

Secondly, the film does not rely on the generic "misunderstanding" or "false or real betrayal” that so many children's animation films require. There is never a point where one of the protagonists thinks the other has sold them out for a quick 'drama-hit'. Even the Vikings -- who despite being huge and tough are remarkably even handed when it comes to female warriors -- are given a pretty good nature.

The film is spirited and smart. It uses its images wisely and squeezes detail out of its CGI backgrounds. I liked the burning Viking watch-towers and the rough island. The movies 98-minute run-time seems just about perfect, and that really sums up the movie. They weren't doing anything new. They weren't doing anything revolutionary -- the production team just hit the nail on the head with everything they tried to accomplish.

The result is simply a film that makes great movie-making look easy which, we all know, is the mark of a real pro.

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MPAA Rating: PG
Running Time: 98 minutes
Distributed By: DreamWorks Animation

For more information about How To Train Your Dragon visit the FlickDirect Movie Database.

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