A young member of a small population is ousted because of his clumsiness and technological (in)aptitude. He joins together with an outside force, returns, and saves the day. The “people” embrace him and his differences, and there’s a lesson learned for everyone. How to Train Your Dragon seems very similar to Pixar’s A Bug’s Life which was inspired by Akira Kurosawa’s epic Seven Samurai. Though the story isn’t new, there’s sincere charm and humor that’s evident within the characters and their relationships.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III’s (Jay Baruchel) biggest problem isn’t acceptance from the group — it’s acceptance from village protector and resident dragon killer supreme, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), Hiccup’s father and man whose name is two adjectives. Stoick doesn’t hesitate to remind his son how disappointed he is with him when the opportunity arises, and feels the geeky son of his doesn’t match up to the expectations of a beefy man. It’s a generational clash that pits two different modes of action — might versus bright. After Hiccup uses a device he invented to snare a Night Fury — a legendary and deadly dragon so fast that no one has ever seen it — Hiccup uses the knowledge gained from having a pet dragon to climb the social order.
It’s strong in its execution with some breathtaking moments, like when Hiccup takes the competitive and jealous Astrid (America Ferrera) for a ride through the clouds. It’s exacting in its pacing with a respectful sense of storytelling that doesn’t rush those moments between boy and dragon or father and son. How to Train Your Dragon’s title ends up being a sarcastic note — that people and dragons aren’t meant to be trained and molded as much as they’re meant to be loved, and that people can see themselves in each other.
How to Train a Dragon (2010)
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Directed by: Dean Deblois and Chris Sanders
Written by: William Davies, Dean DeBlois, and Chris Sanders
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse