As I was watching How to Train Your Dragon, I kept thinking of another film: Werner Herzog’s 2005 documentary, Grizzly Man. In Herzog’s movie, a naïve young fool named Timothy Treadwell believes he can best-friend-forever wild bears, thereby ignoring thousands of years of human history. Things do not end well for the optimistic Mr. Treadwell.
In How to Train Your Dragon, one of the lessons seems to be: Animals are our pals, kindred spirits to all of mankind. “Everything we know about you guys is wrong,” says the young hero, Hiccup, to a dragon. That’s probably what the Grizzly Man thought, right before he became breakfast. Things, of course, do not end so badly for the heroes in Dragon – this is a children’s movie, after all – but the story has little, sorry, bearing on reality.
I suppose if you are eight years old, this animated confection is the cat’s meow. If, however, you are older, it’s a barely tolerable waste of 98 minutes. The story is unoriginal, the gags are aimed at pre-teens, and much of what transpires is preposterous. Young Hiccup, drawn as a teenager, is voiced by an actor who is nearly 30 and whose voice sounds exactly that, which is both bizarre and distracting.
As for the celebrated 3-D special effects … I didn’t see it in 3-D, but according to Roger Ebert, I didn’t miss much. Says Ebert: “The 3-D adds nothing but the opportunity to pay more to see a distracting and unnecessary additional dimension.” I’ll take his word for it.
How to Train Your Dragon is well-meaning and well-drawn and well … very nice for eight-year-olds. It is a Gumby movie with more expensive production values. Grade: B-
Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders Voice Talent: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera Release: 2010
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