When I sat down to watch How to Train Your Dragon, I was coming off of Despicable Me and Toy Story 3. My hopes were high, as How to Train Your Dragon beat out Despicable Me for an Oscar nod, and I thoroughly enjoyed Despicable Me. Several times.
The story starts off a bit slow. Our hero, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), is giving us a tour of Berk, the island he lives on. Being surrounded by beefcake vikings and being the son of the beefiest one, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), is no easy task for a scrawny lad like Hiccup. Why, dear old dad is rumored to have popped a dragon’s head clear off it’s body. My word.
The island doesn’t have a bug problem, a rodent problem, or even a grizzly bear problem. It has a dragon problem. I’ve lived in many apartments with pests of all kinds. I’ve visited Austin, Texas, where the cockroaches are, well, everywhere. I have not, however, been surrounded by an infestation of dragons. They are fire-breathing beasts with razor-sharp teeth. Oh, and they can fly. Much like the roaches in Texas, only slightly bigger.
Hiccup just wants to fit in, as all outcasts do, and knows how he’ll do it. He’s going to kill a Night Fury. The Night Fury is the most ferocious dragon and the hardest one to spot much less kill. With a wish in his heart and an implausibly lucky shot, Hiccup takes down a Night Fury. When he goes to find this Night Fury that he is going to kill, he is presented with a problem that is so predictable that it hits you in the face before the movie even gets going: he can’t do it.
His father, doubtful that Hiccup will ever become anything but a nuisance, wants to find the dragon’s nest where all of these dragons are coming from. After a meeting with his fellow vikings, his friend Gobber the Belch (Craig Ferguson) talks him into letting Hiccup enter dragon training.
Little does everyone know, Hiccup has managed to bond with his Night Fury. It’s the classic story of a boy and his, uh, dragon. Learning the secrets of the dragons, he finds that they are not what the vikings think they are. He means to teach this to his father, but dad has already gone off to try to find the nest again.
In training with Astrid, Snotlout, Fishlegs, Tuffnut, and Ruffnut (voiced in order by America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig) Hiccup is the loner until he starts to work his magic with the dragons they are trying to defeat. His success in training comes from the time he is spending with Toothless, his Night Fury.
Upon his father’s return, Stoick is greeted with the excitement about his son’s sudden, miraculous success. Finally proud of his son, he attends the final exam in which Hiccup must fight and kill a dragon.
I don’t want to reveal the two biggest secrets of the movie, so I will not say much more. I was impressed with this movie and was completely sutured in by the end. A couple of tears may have even slipped out.
How to Train Your Dragon holds its own against this year’s Oscar contenders and contains a unique story that deserves to be heard.