Last year presented us with a host of animated films, two of which I’d refer to as near masterpieces. Unless I’m mistaken, Dreamwork’s How To Train Your Dragon is the first animated film of the year. The premise of the story is the eternal battle between Vikings and the dragons. This, somewhat atypical, premise is only a disguise for the timeless story of a boy coming-to-age and out of touch with his surroundings. Hiccup is a very enthusiastic, but ultimately uncoordinated boy. As fate would have it, his father is the head Viking which only maximises his inadequacy. In the wake of yet another embarrassing paternal moment he makes a discovery about the dragons, one that changes his life in more ways than one.
In many ways How To Train Your Dragon reminded me of Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs), an animated film from last year I was less than impressed with. The parallels may be incidental, but they’re still striking. Both protagonists are out-of-place in their surroundings, both are motherless with fathers who don’t understand and both make a stunning discovery that leads to disaster and then ultimate triumph (yikes, spoiler). Lining them up against each other, I suppose they’re not that different – but yet, I find How To Train Your Dragon much more of a success than its predecessor. It’s not necessarily that the more recent film is more visually adept. It’s not...whereas Cloudy was beautiful to look at, but hollow How To Train Your Dragon is not that visually thrilling but in its slight story there’s a definite charm to it all. True, I could not stop thinking of Harry’s experience with the Hippogriff in The Prisoner of Azkaban...but J.K. Rowling doesn’t have dibs on taming flying wild creatures, neither does this guy...
There are some things about How To Train Your Dragon that confuse me. Why do all the adults talk with some kind of European accent, whereas the children are all American? And speaking of adults – where are the all the women? First I was trying to think what happened to Hiccup’s mother, and then I realised that there weren’t any women in the film (unless I missed that). It’s a conceit, I think, where children’s film are given a free pass when it comes to logistics, though I know I’m as guilty as anyone. But, How To Train Your Dragon was one of the few animated films I didn’t see with my young nephew. So there was no vicarious thrill of seeing a young child enjoy it, but it’s still a respectable film. Robert loves it heartily, I don’t. But it’s a good one.
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