D/W: Dean Deblois & Chris Sanders. (Based on the novel by Cressida Cowell). Starring (voice talents): Jay Baruchel/Gerard Butler/Craig Ferguson/America Ferrara/Jonah Hill/Christopher Mintz-Plasse/Kristen Wiig/T.J. Miller.
In the months leading up to the release of Pixar’s Toy Story 3, most animated films will be just like this. A little funny, a tad stupid, loud, basic, and, well, forgettable.
How to Train Your Dragon sports 3D glasses, but having seen it in 2D and been satisfied, I beg the question of when this 3D fad will go away. So many films are merely being shot in 2D then converted to 3D, a process that limits the 3D. Unlike films like Avatar, which were intended and shot using the 3D process. Despite the 3D debate, it is clear that in most incidences technique is pushed over creativity, letting all details crumble to the floor.
Not only are there inconsistencies with details, but also with bigger flags in the film as well. Firstly, the Vikings were not Scottish. So why do Scottish actors Butler and Ferguson voice the main Viking men in the film? No clue. Secondly, if the decision was made to go Scottish, why not the kids as well? The film is so mottled with names that most audience members won’t recognize (because their children) so why bother? Whether for marketing or lack of originality, the cast is fine, just not memorable as they aren’t used with any real sense of how much voice does contribute to character.
Speaking of characters, How You Train Your Dragon truly attempts to creep out of the shadow of its wordy title. Instead of concentrating on landscapes or vast animated worlds, its story focus on character. Not only as a plot device, but as a moral compass. Hiccup (Baruchel), who is the painfully squeaky son of Viking clan leader Stoick (Butler), has to learn how to kill a dragon in order to find his place within his clan. A coming of age and moral journey, Hiccup has the unfortunate fortune of downing a dangerous dragon, looking it in the eye and befriending and not slaying it. Heartwarming, juicy sweet,and tender, these moments are the truest and best in the film. A film whose gimmicks and stupidity will remind anyone of why Pixar and Disney are at the top of this food chain and not Dreamworks.
It is something truly sad and disappointing when you experience the lack of effort, diligence and thought in programming and entertainment targeted at children. Theoretically, this entertainment should be what the business focuses heaviest on. As it is the bits of Sesame Street or Barney or Are You Afraid of the Dark? that we all bring along with us as audience members and for the rest of our lives. AND if you think children and young adults don’t pick up on something, think again. And shame on you for not challenging them more. Children should be outside, but when they do sit down it should be for something quality. (There were enough squirming toddlers at my screening to suggest they weren’t engaged either.)
And in animation, quality must be seeped with originality. New films must distinguish themselves from a now saturated medium. Unfortunately, How you Train Your Dragon used Sander’s look of Stitch from his film, Lilo & Stitch, for Hiccup’s dragon friend Toothless. Although filmmakers might have thought they were clever, it is clearly the same film again. Didn’t Lilo meet a weird character, befriend them, and help people change their notions about things? Well, only a coupe more months until Toy Story 3.