Sure, there’s romance. There’s adventure. While you could say the movie is only loosely based on Cressida Cowell’s 2003 book by the same title, there is still excellent storytelling. But what makes How to Train Your Dragon one of those epic, love-em movies is that it’s the entire package—the film delivers, period.
The cast of voice talents is absolutely fantastic. From Gerard Butler to Craig Ferguson, there are some spot-on Viking voice talents that make you feel as if you’re truly watching real Vikings on the big screen. Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Kristen Wiig and several other young, big-named actors portray a ragtag crew of dragon killers in training, and are absolutely hilarious as well as moving in their growth through the movie. Baruchel himself as the lead could do no better; his voice, though not fitting for a Viking, fit his character perfectly. He played the misunderstood inventor Hiccup on much sweeter, more likeable grounds than, say, Bill Hader as Flint Lockwood in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (though a fun movie with its own merits, of course). His character was interesting, compassionate, and rebellious in a non-combative way.
Like I said, the movie is full of adventure. There are various dragons galore—and they all carry secrets that the Vikings have no clue over. The Vikings only know to kill dragons, since the dragons, in turn, kill Vikings and steal sheep. (It should be noted that, while there are some violent sequences with the dragons versus Vikings, there are no human deaths in the movie, which parents will like. Overall, it’s largely very child-friendly; my four-year-old, often very sensitive, readily enjoyed it and was not scared.)
But the real adventures happen later as plot twists develop—some in ways you might have guessed earlier on in the film, and some in ways you probably hadn’t even imagined, which is a huge credit for a film aimed at children. The animation, of course, is stellar—and as overrated as 3-D films are, I highly encourage it to be seen as such for some really enjoyable effects! The messages, of course—about being different, trying to fit in and then realizing that fitting in may not be the best solution after all, misunderstanding and fearing things that are different from us, and making wrongful assumptions based on things we know little about—are the backbone of the movie without being shoved down your throat. Each of these (and more surprisingly meaningful concepts from a film about Vikings and dragons) is subtly developed throughout the film, building to a beautiful ending that—I have to admit—made both my husband and me cry. We found that it completely blew Alice in Wonderland—a movie we’d both been looking forward to for years—out of the water.
How to Train Your Dragon is rated PG for some intense action and scary bits.