Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Training The Lizard

As a movie lover, I hate not having kids. Part of it is that I'd love to pass on my knowledge and appreciation of this art form. Another part is that I usually have to go by myself when a so-called "kids movie" comes out that I want to see. When I do that, I'm thoroughly convinced that every parent there sees me as some sort of sexual predator and that I'll end up in jail because some stupid kid backed up into my knee or something. I'm exaggerating but I don't like to go to movies marketed to kids by myself and it takes a special one to get me to do so. I had heard good things about How To Train Your Dragon and I can tell you they are all true and it was well worth seeing. Wouldn't be worth having to register as a sex offender for the rest of my life but it's still pretty good.

Dragon is one of these "lessons in tolerance" movies that could easily turn stupid a la Pocahontas had it been made by less skilled filmmakers. Luckily the folks at Dreamworks managed to infuse enough humor, action and that rarest of all things seen in big budget movies, intelligence, to be a thoroughly entertaining experience.

The movie opens somewhere between a hundred and a bazillion years ago in a small Viking village that is constantly under the threat of dragon attack. Even the women here must be able to competently wield weapons so they can help fight off the dragons that destroy their homes and steal their food supply so there isn't really much of a place for a kid named Hiccup voiced by Jay Baruchel. Hiccup is a small and weak boy who has a high intellect in a world that values strength and fighting skill above all else. No one cares when Hiccup invents a catapult designed to take down the fastest and most elusive of all dragons called a Night Fury. Hiccup's physical shortcomings are accentuated by the fact that his father is Chief Stoic (Gerard Butler who is breaking the vow he made years ago that every movie he made after 300 would suck), a guy who can stand toe to toe with the toughest of dragons.

No one believes Hiccup when he says his catapult worked and he took down a Night Fury so he finds it but finds himself unable to kill the bound and helpless animal so he cuts it loose. He sees it later unable to navigate while flying due to damage to its tail so Hiccup builds a replacement tail (seriously) and manages to forge a friendship with what should be his mortal enemy. While all this is going on Hiccup's father puts him into dragon killing training along with every jerk kid in the village (including one really hefty nerd who hilariously describes the dragons using Dungeons and Dragons type stats like saying one of them is +5 to poison). Included in this group is Astrid (America Ferrera), the girl Hiccup has a crush on who's also the best dragon killer in the class. Hiccup, however, begins showing her up when he learns dragon weaknesses such as the fact that certain types of plants pacify them like catnip does and uses this knowledge in his training.

Hiccup comes to like and understand dragons but, of course, no one in the village wants to listen when he says an alliance can be formed and all the Vikings team up and hack the dragons to death thus exterminating the species. HA! Gotcha. I think you know how it ends but it's fun watching how they get to that ending.

How To Train Your Dragon isn't as good as Up but then again, what is? I shouldn't have even made the comparison anyway. That would be like comparing every war movie to Inglourious Basterds or every sucky piece of crap to New Moon or Transformers 2.

No comments: