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Recommendation: How to Train Your Dragon (The 1-year Anniversary Edition)

March 29, 2010

Yesterday was my husband’s and my one-year anniversary. Because we are huge movie fans, part of our plan for the day was to take in two movies, which we hadn’t been able to see previously because of our different work schedules.

We also went to dinner and exchanged presents and all the usual anniversary stuff, but you’re not here to hear about that, you’re here to hear about movies.

There were four movies that we were seriously considering:

  • Alice in Wonderland – Ben (the husband) has read mixed reviews (I don’t read reviews, more on that tomorrow) and thought maybe we could wait to see it.
  • RepoMen – Ben’s sister wants to take him to see it for his birthday (which was actually a week ago), so that’s out.
  • The Ghost Writer – Ben really wanted to see this one; I hadn’t heard much about it.
  • How to Train Your Dragon – This was my pick, because it looked like it was going to be adorable, if not good, and I’m always a fan of animated.

I actually only learned of our options after we were at the theatre. When the day started, I had no idea what we were going to go see (I love surprises), but I suspected How to Train Your Dragon would be on the list, because Ben knew how much I really wanted to see it.

So today, I’m going to recommend How to Train You Dragon. Wednesday I’ll talk about The Ghost Writer (preliminary recommendation: see it, it’s brilliant).

Title: How to Train Your Dragon

Summary:Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is a scrawny, misunderstood lad living in a village. In itself, this would be a rather unremarkable setting for a story, but he happens to be a scrawny, misunderstood viking, and the village happens to be on an remote island whose primary pests are dragons. Every viking in the village has a role, and it revolves around killing dragons and defending the village. Hiccup, however, is unable to take his rightful place because he is too small to be of any use. He has all sorts of ideas, and inventions, for helping with the battle, but no one will give him a shot.

Genre: uplifting, sincere and heart-warming, overcoming hardships/adversity, fantasy, comedy, action

Audience: I suspect that the only people who would not like this movie are people who are opposed to all thing animated, people who are opposed to all things fantasy, and people who pride themselves on their discerning taste in film. (It’s not going to win any Oscars, but that doesn’t make it a bad movie, just not a great one.)

Occasion: Hanging out with friends, need an emotional boost, spending time with kids, want to laugh.

Watch every minute? This is really a rather fun, silly movie, so it’s probably not necessary to watch the whole thing with rapt attention. There are some neat little details, etc. thrown in here and there, which always is nice for the re-watch value (very, very important in movies targeted primarily at kids)

Big Screen vs. Small Screen:Any. And while it was originally shown in 3-D, we didn’t end up watching it in 3-D, and thought it was just fine.

Why I liked it:First of all, Hiccup is just my kind of hero. He’s a smart, funny, bitingly ironic underdog with a heart of gold. Yes, I know, it’s a very popular archetype… except for the bitingly ironic part. I swear half of the lines that made me laugh out loud were so dry that I bet they flew right over the heads of the kids watching the movie, but the adults all guffawed right along with me.

I will admit that I was a little turned off from the character design when I first saw the preview, especially for the dragons. I am a firm believer that dragons should be stately, gorgeous creatures. (This may have something to do with the fact that I read-until-the-bindings-wore-out Anne McCaffrey’s Dragon Riders of Pern series when I was younger. Maybe.) However, the character design really grew on me after a while, and it doesn’t detract from the movie.

Another great reason to see this movie is the talented cast they got to do the voices: Jay Baruchel (famously from Tropic Thunder), Gerard Butler (I liked him best in P.S., I Love You, which I plan to recommend soon), Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera (of Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants fame), Jonah Hill (from pretty much every recent comedy, including Superbad and Knocked Up, although I liked him best in Accepted), and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (best well-known as McLovin from Superbad , but also in Role Models (read my recommendation)).

“Own it” vs. “Once is enough”:Most people will probably be fine watching this movie just the once. It’s good, and it’s funny, but it’s not great (like Wall-E, or Up). However, those will kids who will end up owning the movie and therefore watching it over, and over, and over again… won’t want to kill themselves, which is always nice. ^_^

If you liked… You’ll also enjoy…: Meet the Robinsons, Robots, Ice Age, Shrek, Monsters vs. Aliens, Bolt, Over the Hedge, and Chicken Little.

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