Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review: How to Train your dragon...

Rating: ***1/2 (out of 5)

Writing this review reminds me of my review of Up. Once again here's another cartoon where I'll say...it's a very entertaining movie, but calm down with the over-praising. At rottentomatoes, the movie has a 98% with the consensus saying, "Boasting dazzling animation, a script with surprising dramatic depth, and thrilling 3-D sequences, How to Train Your Dragon soars." Surprising dramatic depth? Really?
If you go to the movie to expecting to be entertained with great visuals, you'll have a good time. However if you expect to see a movie on par with Pixar's best, or even expecting "the best Dreamworks animated film since Shrek", you will be a tad bit disappointed (just for the record, Kung Fu Panda is the best animated Dreamworks film since Shrek). I hope this review isn't coming off too negative as it is a good movie, but I feel the need to put the movie in its rightful place. The movie has spectacular visuals, but ultimately it's the script that lets the movie down a little bit.

Most of you have seen the trailer, and I don't think you really need me to summarize the plot. In a formulaic sense, if you've seen Cloudy with a chance of meatballs (just for the record, I think Meatballs is a better movie due to being more creative), you will be very familiar with this movie's structure and formula. Here's yet another movie with a very ambitious and intelligent protagonist, but can't get the approval of other people...including his father. Once you see the first scene between the main character Hiccup and his viking father, you know exactly how this will play out...you know that his father will not approve of him the entire movie which will then all build up to the dramatic, "I'm proud of you son, moment." Look at the relationship between the main character and the dragon he befriends, or his love interest...everything in these subplots has been done to death. Simply put, the movie's formula is so cliched, so predictable and by the numbers, and that's what prevents this movie from being one of the greats.

I should also add that what really disappointed me about the movie was the comedy. It has its funny moments here and there, but none of the jokes are memorable. With maybe one exception, I can't remember any quotable or memorable lines of dialogue.
The kid characters and one of the dumb vikings try to be comic relief, but they just aren't funny. Watch Monster House to see how funny child characters are done (I'll also add, Monster House is a better movie).

I've been spending an awful lot of time criticizing the movie, that I should spend some time discussing the strengths. From a pure visual standpoint, Dragon is excellent. The 3-D is used very well. The gimmicky in your face stuff comes occasionally and is excellently delivered, and the flying on the dragon scenes do make you feel like you're flying. Most of all, the action scenes are a lot of fun. The final battle vs. the scary, bad ass, gargantuan sized dragon is a lot of fun.

The movie never overstays its welcome. It's paced well, and the friendship that grows between Hiccup and his dragon is overall well done. Just like any other animated film, Dragon has its morals which will not be difficult for the audience to pick up on.

How to Train your Dragon is a very entertaining movie, but to suggest that it's anywhere in the same league as Pixar's best is absurd. If I hadn't read all the hype about the movie, I perhaps would have enjoyed it more. If Dragon ends up winning best animated film at the Oscars, that'll speak volumes of how weak the animated entries are (I'm not all that excited for Toy Story 3, and Shrek 4 just looks really bad). Ultimately, How to Train your Dragon has the recipe for a good time at the movies, but it lacks original and creative storytelling to elevate it to greatness.