Review: How to Train Your Dragon – How to Train Your Dragon (2010)


How to Train Your Dragon – How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

Directed by: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders | 98 minutes | animation, comedy, family | Original voice cast: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, TJ Miller, Kieron Elliott | Dutch voice cast: Patrick Martens, Peter Tuinman, Terence Schreurs, Bert Simhoffer, Dorien Haan, Jop Joris, Daan Loenen, Sander van der Poel, Patty Brard, Viktor Brand, Erik van der Hoff, Art Rooijakkers

Outsiders, misfits and sleepers; every film needs its own unruly hero to appeal to a large audience. DreamWorks’ latest computer-animated film, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ (2010), is all about the young Hiccup. As the son of the all-powerful Stoic the Vast, the leader of all Vikings on the Isle of Berk, much is expected of him. But where most Vikings are dumbass and barbarians who don’t turn their backs on violence and other rude behavior and kill dragons galore, Hiccup is humble, polite, intelligent and cynical. Moreover, he does not resemble his immensely muscular, broad and impressive father in the slightest. He’s a lanky, a spindle leg. Hiccup doesn’t have it easy. His father is ashamed of his weak son and the other Viking children laugh at him. He would like to change, to please the others, but you are who you are. So when Hiccup accidentally comes face to face with a wounded dragon – and not just any one! – instead of doing what all the other Vikings would have done (killing the dragon), he forms a friendship that will change the island forever.

‘How to Train Your Dragon’, based on a book by Cressida Cowell, is a lively, colorful, original and highly entertaining animated film, which is certainly not inferior to DreamWorks toppers ‘Shrek’ and ‘Madagascar’. In fact, in some ways the animation studio is rivaling itself! ‘Dragon’ has a lot to offer for both young and old. In the first place, there are the wonderful animations: the figures are of course colorful and caricatured, but you are amazed time and again how detailed they are worked out. The story is particularly compelling, thanks to the endearing central character Hiccup and his unlikely best friend Toothless the dragon. The scenes that these two have together are an important emotional asset. Because it is clear that this film touches your heart. In this case it is emphasized once again that you do not have to be afraid of the unknown. A second theme is the difficult father-son relationship between Hiccup and Stoic. We’ve all seen it before, of course, but not often has it been worked out so aptly. Disappointment and misunderstanding on both sides. The moralizing undertone is absent and fortunately it never gets sentimental, but don’t be surprised if you have to shed a tear here and there.

So, in terms of content, this intense adventurous trip back in time is all right. But also visually ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ makes a great impression. The film opens with a dazzling action scene, in which the cards are immediately laid on the table. You can expect that in a country where dragons and Vikings are at odds with each other and where battles are fought to the death. Maybe it’s a bit too scary for the little ones, but the film never gets really grim. Various characters have been summoned to provide a – often subtle – comic note. Kudos to the excellent voice cast including Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Jay Baruchel, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Especially the last two are seen as comic talents. By the way, towards the end of the film we are again treated to a cracker of an action spectacle. In between, you can really enjoy the impressive flight scenes. Just imagine: flying on the back of a dragon, dancing through the layered and colored clouds, skimming just close to the rocks – it’s an unforgettable experience – especially in 3D! – what DreamWorks treats you to! The mythical medieval landscape is also impressively designed, as are the colorful procession of dragons that pass by. Toothless, the black night fury with the bright green eyes, immediately steals the show. While he can be dangerous, he certainly has something cuddly too. The resemblance to ‘Lilo and Stitch’ (2002) – by the same makers – is striking.

With ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ DreamWorks has outdone itself. This animated adventure offers the complete package of action, adventure, humor, drama and even a touch of romance. This makes it the ideal film for a night out with the whole family. Sometimes it’s heartwarming, other times you’re on the edge of your seat from the tension. The sublime animations, excellent voice cast full of (comic) talent and the positive, peace-loving message will certainly leave you with a good feeling from the cinema. Let yourself be carried away in this amazing adventure. Because although the world of the Vikings may seem miles away from us at first glance, we have more in common with them than we think. Can we already say that ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ is one of the top hits of 2010? Oh, we just do it!