Science fiction and fantasy                                            

How To Train Your Dragon

directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois

How To Train Your Dragon poster  
There's something vaguely nauseating about the way misfits are treated in recent popular movies. It's not so much the way these films seem to be saying that it's okay to be the odd one out that's distasteful, so much as the way they tend to characterise everyone else as thick-headed, inflexible and cruel.

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a weak, sensitive boy in a village full of macho dragon-slaying Scottish Vikings. He's more interested in making notes in his book than in hurting anything, and he's hopeless at doing anything physical. He's scorned by his peers, and he can't even manage to speak with the same accent as everyone else. Hiccup's dad Stoic (Gerard Butler) is sorely disappointed in him.

Then one day Hiccup finds a lone dragon in the woods. He's supposed to kill it, because that's what Vikings do and anyway the dragons are a plague on the village, carrying off livestock and occasionally eating people. However Hiccup isn't cut out for slaying. Instead he studies the creature and attempts to gain its trust.

Back in the village Hiccup is thrust into dragon training in the company of people his age. He has to survive a series of tests against all manner of dragon species. But the worst is yet to come, because the winner gets the dubious honour of killing a dragon in front of the whole village. But his friends are starting to get suspicious about his long absences and his uncanny knowledge about dragons.

This is a cute, predictable story about an odd boy who uses brains rather than brawn to get over his problems. He gets help from the blacksmith Gobber (Craig Ferguson). Gobber has lost an arm and a leg, and he's one of a few characters who portray disability in a positive light.

It's the physically capable characters who end up caricatures of the dumb jock stereotype. Stoic is supposed to be the model of the Viking ideal, and he's also their leader, so he fits this stereotype more than most. He's fearless and strong, but definitely not a thinker. Hiccup's young friends are also as dim as deep caves, with the exception of Astrid (America Ferrera). Their bumbling foolishness is the source of some of the movie's humour, and it's quite oversimplified. However to its credit How To Train Your Dragon is spiced up with some witty dialogue.

This is an enjoyable movie with bright, colourful visuals, a cheery moral and plenty of family-friendly thrills and spills. Hiccup and Toothless are accessible and engaging, and should appeal to a young audience. If you can stomach the relentlessly feelgood tone and the conformists-are-idiots subtext it's pleasant enough entertainment.

19th December 2010

Film Details

Year: 2010

Categories: Films

  Kids     Fantasy

Classification: PG

If you like this, try:

Brave cover    

Brave by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell
In a fantasy Scotland full of bears, kilts, and haggis, Princess Merida fights for the right to decide her own fate.

Shrek Forever After cover    

Shrek Forever After by Mike Mitchell
Shrek decides his perfect family life is too much for him, so he makes a bargain to allow him to go back to being a big, bad ogre.

Shrek The Third cover    

Shrek The Third by Chris Miller
The grumpy green ogre faces his biggest challenge yet: fatherhood.

3 star rating

Review © Ros Jackson