|How To Train Your Dragon (2010)|
|Theatrical Movie Reviews Theatrical|
|Written by Daniel Hirshleifer|
|Friday, 26 March 2010|
There is no question in my mind that How To Train Your Dragon is easily Dreamworks' best animated attempt to date. In fact, it's so much better than any of their previous outings that I hate to compare it to such drivel as Shrek or A Shark's Tale. Even their best release up to this point, Kung Fu Panda is so much less than Dragon that it's hard to believe they're both from the same company. While it doesn't hit the heights of Toy Story 2, Wall-E, or Ratatouille, How To Train Your Dragon is the first Dreamworks animated movie that could legitimately stand up against such enjoyable pictures as Cars, A Bug's Life, or even other non-Disney/Pixar flicks like Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs.
The first thing that will impress you upon seeing How To Train Your Dragon is the scope of the picture. The imagery is vibrant and far more grand than anything Dreamworks has previously attempted. The 3D makes this all the more apparent, as grand vistas open up on multiple levels. There's also an incredible sense of detail, with hair and scales alike coming to life vividly. The animators must have put in two or three times the amount of work they normally do, because everything about the movie shows excellent craft. There were moments in the film where I was wowed by what I was seeing on screen.
The other major draw is the well-rounded characters. Both Hiccup and his dragon, affectionally dubbed Toothless, are the most interesting and sympathetic characters Dreamworks has come up with yet. The relationship between Hiccup and his father seems reminiscent of a similar dynamic in last year's Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, but is no less effective for it. The side characters are also interesting in and of themselves, adding interest along the way as the film develops.
If there's on hiccup, it's in Dreamworks continuing to use live action actors for name recognition when voice actors would have given better performances. While Pixar and Disney also use live action actors for certain voices in their films, they also tend to give voice actors their due as well. Dreamworks isn't nearly so generous, casting almost every role no matter how small with someone whose name and voice the audience can recognize. It's distracting, because you either spend time trying to decipher why a character sounds so familiar, or you end up thinking about the actor and not the character. Was adding Jonah Hill's voice really going to result in a significant bump in box office? That's not to say that the actors are bad, but they're not doing voices.
That qualm aside, How To Train Your Dragon is an astonishing leap forward for Dreamworks. It's funny without descending to out of date pop culture references. It's touching without being cloying. It's visually gorgeous and has 3D that works in its favor instead of feeling like a gimmick. It's too early to tell whether or not this is a new start for Dreamworks, the most creatively bankrupt of all the major animation studios, or the exception that proves the rule. But regardless of what comes after, How To Train Your Dragon is an excellent film that deserves to be seen on the big screen and in 3D.