Screened Out – How to Train Your Dragon 2

By : Stephen Miller
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Voices of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Cate Blanchet, Djimon Honsou, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Kristen Wiig

Let me start by saying – though this film is much, much darker than the slightly grim original – I still desperately want a pet dragon. That’s the magic of both stories; for children and adults alike, these animated wonders stir the imagination. HtTYD1 & 2 both possess fully realized worlds with engaging characters, stunning artwork, tight story arc, complex theme, and real emotion.

Thin, geeky Hiccup (Baruchel) and his lovely, playful dragon Toothless are now five years older. Muscle-bound Papa Stoick (Butler) is still the chief of their dragon-friendly Viking village Berk, but he knows he cannot lead forever. After Hiccup’s bravery bringing peace and cohabitation between the beasts and humans, his dad thinks Hiccup would make a perfect successor. Stoick deems it so, should he die.

Many of us have had our parents try to pick our careers for us. Some of us have even found that Mom or Dad have seen something in us we cannot see in ourselves.

Hiccup feels he’s better at peace than he is at war, his brave and mountainous dad’s specialty. The waifish young dragon rider buckles at the responsibility of protecting the village. Then, in some soul searching atop his winged pal, he crosses paths with some dragon trappers who plan to bring war to his village, no matter how hard he tries to negotiate peace.

Where can I get one of these?

Where can I get one of these?

So, the first film was about seeking the peaceful option first. HtTYD2 is about finding the strength to do what’s right – what you may feel you cannot – when there are no other options. It’s also about doing these things your own way. Hiccup finds he has genetic reason to be diplomatic and dragon obsessed. He and his dragon also find that genetics aren’t the only factor in who they are.

The battles are epic. The flying scenes are thrilling. The humor and emotion are genuine. The new monsters are awe-inspiring.

Something must be said about the PG rating; the MPAA isn’t kidding. The first film was heralded for its bravery, the physical damages Hiccup and Toothless sustained from their battles. So much more is lost here in HtTYD2. It can definitely be emotionally devastating, too complex for smaller children. Older children and adults will be moved that an animated film takes such risks.

Not only does HtTYD2 take some thrilling gambles, it taps into some really heartfelt moments. When animation can do that – moving us to cheer or get choked up – it really has created magic.

Ratings Key

See it now! Buy the DVD! Quote lines at parties!

Definitely worth the price of admission

It’s useful as a distraction

Maybe if someone else pays and you need a nap

Slightly worse than eternal damnation

Obviously, the biggest reason this DreamWorks Animation soars is writer/director Dean DuBlois. He and creative partner Chris Sanders (The Croods) have been effectively stolen from Disney after their beautiful Lilo and Stitch movie and fun TV series. Sanders helps with the art, but the story and guiding concepts here are all DuBlois’s, work worthy of recognition and award.

Mysteries from the first film play well into this story. New wonders and more amazing beasts are revealed. And I walked out – a relatively levelheaded 44-year-old who sees about 150 movies a year – mentally clearing space in my schedule to see it again. I also started thinking, “OK, they’re a little dangerous, but owning a dragon would be so cool!”

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