How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Content by Tony Macklin. Originally published on April 1, 2010 @

How to Train Your Dragon is blue skies and dragons. Lots of blue skies. And lots of dragons.

The latest film from DreamWorks received an incredible 97% favorable rating by national reviewers on Rotten Tomatoes. That's 97%. That is in the purity range of Ivory Soap.

I'm one of those reviewers.

What distinguishes How to Train Your Dragon is that it has terrific action sequences, compelling 3-D, personality-filled character voices, a lively story, credible moral lessons, and wondrous cinematography.

How to Train Your Dragon is the sincere, genuine tale of a young Viking named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), who does not have the stature or forcefulness of his burly father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), and his clan. He does not have their dragon-slaying fervor.

Hiccup finds a wounded dragon, whom he names Toothless, and heals and befriends him. Hiccup is mentored by Gobber (Craig Ferguson) and has feelings for Astrid (America Ferrera). He has to figure out his identity and destiny.

How to Train Your Dragon is one of those movies that can be appreciated in 2-D, but the masterly 3-D enhances it. Duck those spears.

If one heard that Jay Baruchel and Jonah Hill were in a movie -- playing a character named Snotlout -- he'd assume it was a crude comedy. But it's not; How to Train Your Dragon is a sweet, soaring trip.

The voices of the cast -- Baruchel, Butler, Ferguson, Ferrera, Hill, et al. -- are appealing.

The story of Hiccup and his travails is from a novel by British author Cressida Cowell. Dean DeBlois and his fellow screenwriters change the age of Hiccup from being 10 years old to that of a teenager, which allows more character evolution. Cowell affirmed the changes to her novel. But the movie keeps the liveliness and enchantment of the children's book.

One great asset for How to Train Your Dragon is the contribution of esteemed cinematographer Roger Deakins -- my favorite cinematographer.

Deakins was cinematographer for A Serious Man (2009) and No Country for Old Men (2007), among many other outstanding movies. Deakins had eight Oscar nominations; it is very regrettable that he has never won.

Co-directors DeBlois and Chris Sanders wanted a new realism in their animation, and Deakins was their man. As one model they used the exquisite photography that Deakins employed in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007).

In How to Train Your Dragon, Deakins added a new way of using light, darkness, and shadow in animated imagery to great effect.

DelBois and Sanders co-directed Lilo and Stitch (2002) another film about unique friendship.

How to Train Your Dragon -- despite the ferocity of the dragon Night Fury -- still should be appropriate for most small children. And big ones as well.

In fact, because of the delightful How to Train Your Dragon, I'm now mentoring the local chapter of Support Your Local Dragon.

Hiccup needs more allies.

© 2000-2023 Tony Macklin