This isn’t simply a movie about how to train a dragon, title notwithstanding. It is a movie about a boy’s desire to win the approval of his father and his peers. It is about a father’s realization that strength lies not only in the ability to wield weapons and cleave heads off of flying fire-breathing pests, but also in the ability to encourage his son to have the strength to be himself, despite societal expectations to the contrary. There are subplots, to be sure. But that is the movie’s essence and its great strength.
How to Train Your Dragon is rated PG for some scary images, brief mild language and sequences of intense action, which is highly unfortunate. I do not recommend it for young children. I do suggest that fathers bring their sons if they feel their sons are mature enough to have a continuing dialoque about what it means to become a man in a complex world.
How to Train Your Dragon offers that opportunity. In one key moment, Hiccup (the boy Viking) receives an affirmation from his father which was as unexpected as it was needed. The man said, “I am proud of you, son.” What boy doesn’t want to hear that from their father?
The 3D affects are beautifully rendered and not overstated. The dragons are ferocious beasts which are completely misunderstood by their Viking adversaries, as Hiccup soon learns and eventually gains courage to reveal to his people. Go to this movie before it leaves the theaters. It is worth the admission price and the expense of a bag of popcorn. But make sure they put enough butter on the popcorn. And make sure you pay attention to the dialogue. This movie has it in spades in addition to compelling action moments. A pleasant surprise for an animated feature which I first imagined would be a cheesy time stealer. Enjoy!