From the title, trailer and general fact that it’s a kid’s film, I went to see this expecting to see something that was OK, but generally a bit too childish for me. I’m not quite sure how to sum it all up, except by saying that the makers of Clash of the Titans will be rather annoyed, as I was going to go and see that sometime in the next few days, but instead I’m going to go and see How to Train Your Dragon again, as are the other two people I went with.
The story follows in the same footsteps as Shrek and Kung Fu Panda, the other two animated films by Dreamworks that spring to mind, using the moral of ‘just be yourself’. What is brilliant is that the writers (who should be applauded for many, many things in this film) have taken the typical ‘let’s try and get kids to appreciate themselves’ slant of the other two films, but managed to avoid all the main clichés.
The story follows Hiccough (voiced to perfection by Jay Baruchel), a scrawny Viking, who lives on a small island with a lot of very muscled and chunky Vikings, all of whom are named after their nature, like Stoick (Gerard Butler), Hiccough’s father and clan leader. These Vikings are plagued by dragons who every now and then raid the island, stealing their livestock and destroying their homes. Killing dragons is everything to these Vikings, so when Hiccough can’t even lift a hammer (he works in the smithy), but has invented a catapult to take down dragons instead, you can kind of predict where it goes. But it doesn’t matter, because the story is perfectly fitted to the film. His invention brings down the most fearsome and deadly of all the dragon types – the Night Fury. However when Hiccough goes to kill it as it lies there helpless, he realises that he hasn’t got it in him to kill anything, much to the disdain of the other Vikings, especially Astrid (America Ferrera), the tough, skilful girl over whom Hiccough obsesses.
Over a period of days he slowly befriends and trains this dragon, which he names Toothless (he has retractable teeth) and they become great friends. Toothless deserves an entire essay to himself, for he is by far the best character in the film. Rather like Gromit, he doesn’t talk and yet he doesn’t need to. Not only does this dragon have the best and funniest facial expressions, he also has the best personality.
There are some truly poignant moments in the film, such as when Hiccough is drawing Toothless in the sand with a small stick, and the dragon comes over with an entire tree in his mouth and also draws, albeit a clumsy mass of squiggles.
I won’t bother listing the rest of the film’s best bits, because every paragraph would end with ‘and is fantastic’. The voice acting is brilliant, the animation amazing, the characterisation of Toothless so good he is now my Facebook profile picture, and the writing flawless. It also has one of the best jokes I have ever heard, and will honestly keep you laughing so hard from start to finish. It was so funny I was scared to eat my Minstrels, because I was worried I would choke.
I absolutely have to give this film full marks, 5 out of 5, 10 out of 10, 12 Hyenas out of 12 Hyenas. How to Train Your Dragon will have you smiling and laughing not only for the 90 minutes it is on, but for a good week or so after you’ve left the cinema.
I have never been so keen to go and see a film in the cinema again (which is something I have only done once or twice before), and all I can say is – bring on the dvd.