How to Train Your Dragon Review

Published 4 years ago by

How to Train Your Dragon is family-friendly, funny, touching, entertaining, and may be the best animated film Dreamworks has made to date.

how to train your dragon review How to Train Your Dragon ReviewScreen Rant reviews How to Train Your Dragon

I really had no expectations going in to see Dreamworks Animation’s latest CGI animated film, How to Train Your Dragon. Frankly, based on the trailers I’d seen I thought it was going to be fairly hokey and formulaic. Imagine my surprise when I found it to be a funny, heartfelt and action-packed movie for kids. Just so you know, this review is based on a viewing of the 2D version of the film as I didn’t get a chance to catch a 3D screening prior to the film’s opening.

How to Train Your Dragon tells the story of “Hiccup” (voiced by young Jay Baruchel, but who I would have sworn was Christian Slater), a skinny, quirky pre-teen growing up in a Viking village. He’s clumsy, intellectual and prone to inventing things using the crude technology available at the time. The village is a harsh place to live and the Vikings are portrayed as big, beefy, hearty men and women who have to fight not only the elements but invasions of attacking dragons, which they’ve fought for generations.

The Vikings in the village define their lives through their battles against the dragons, and Hiccup’s father (Stoick, voice by Gerard Butler) is the biggest and bravest of them all – and the leader of the village. He thinks Hiccup is not cut out for dragon-battle despite Hiccup’s desire for just that very thing (motivated in great part because he believes it’ll get him a girlfriend). Hiccup is mesmerized by Astrid (America Ferrera), a blonde warrior in training who can hold her own against the boys her own age with whom she is training.

astrid how to train dragon How to Train Your Dragon Review

Astrid & the other junior dragon warriors in training

There are many, many types and varieties of dragons here, but the most elusive one – that not only has anyone ever seen, much less killed, is the mysterious and super-fast Night Fury. Hiccup uses one of his gadgets to bring down the Night Fury far from the village. Of course no one believes him, and he goes out in search of the deadly dragon. I won’t say much more than of course Hiccup finds it (he names it “Toothless” for reasons that are apparent) and the film is basically about how they come to be friends.

From Toothless Hiccup learns how to train dragons and appears to subdue them in dragon battle training. Astrid is none too happy about it because she wants to be the #1 pupil – eventually of course she decides to find out how exactly Hiccup is learning all these things and stumbles across his secret.

I was concerned that the audience would be bludgeoned with some sort of “message” in this film, but instead I found the story to be uplifting and the message more subtle than that of Avatar – a film that this reminded me of with the scenes involving dragon flight and a battle towards the end. Yes, for the most part you’ll know where this story is headed, but they actually managed to turn the story in a direction I didn’t expect at all – something I can’t say about the aforementioned other film.

I found the CGI animation to be very detailed, although a little more expressiveness in the characters’ faces might have been nice. I particularly enjoyed Gerard Butler’s performance – loved hearing him speak any time his character was on screen. Although you’ll know where things are headed between Hiccup and Toothless and between him and Astrid, I felt the movie took its time getting there and didn’t make it too easy for the inevitable transitions to take place. Toothless was a joy to watch – they made him a cross between the best aspects of a dog and a cat as far as personality and he was completely lovable.

Overall I found How to Train Your Dragon to be great fun with a big heart – it drew me (and my daughter) in and we enjoyed it from beginning to end. Feel free to bring kids of all ages to this one, nothing in it is inappropriate or so scary that it would give the little ones nightmares. Personally, I’m looking forward to seeing it again, but in 3D next time.

Our Rating:

4.5 out of 5
(Must-See)

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TAGS: 4 star movies, how to train your dragon

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  1. 'preciate this one! GREAT NEWS!! MY WIFE IS PREGNANT WITH OUR FIRST CHILD! lol. i mention this because she is ALL OF A SUDDEN on a “no bad movies” tear so THIS one i actually get to watch. ha! Guessed im gonna have to get used to that damn ratings system in my house.

  2. Glad you liked it, im excited to see this one.

  3. Yep, this one is for Imax 3D for sure.

  4. wow 4.5 ? I expected it to be bad , now I have to watch this asap

  5. I've seen a number of reviewers compare this to Avatar saying it's a better constructed story. Honestly, I didn't have any hopes for this film save for the fact that Chris Sanders was directing, but with this review and the 95% on Rotten Tomatoes, I'm kinda looking forward to it now.

  6. Dreamworks doesn't get much credit for providing great CGI animated films. Pixar gets all the love, but dreamworks does come through with their offerings.
    They should really consider to try an Asterix CGI film.

  7. Congrats man!

  8. I love the book but this is NOT how I pictured the characters, I thought they'd be old fashioned not modern, American voices.

  9. yep, just came back from watching it in imax 3D – nothing short of amazing! ^^ it's been a while since I've enjoyed a movie so much

  10. I'm quite interested in this flick.
    Thanks for the solid review.

  11. Anyone else see a little bit, or maybe a lot, of another one of the dierctor's characters in the dragon?

    I expected to enjoy the movie but not as much as I did. I really wish I got a chance to see the 3-D version, the 3-D Alice preview of the movie made me drool, but don't get me wrong the 2-D is great too. I know it maybe too early to say but I suspect this to be one of the best animated movies this year.

  12. I am not a supporter of 3D but this is one movie that should be seen in 3D, more so than Avatar.

  13. I saw it .
    It was kind of odd for a kids movie.
    the flying scenes were terriic and the Cute Dragon scenes were fun,
    But it just seemed like it had a really serious side too.
    Vic,Could we have a spoiler thread?
    I would like to talk about it in more detail .

  14. Saw “How to Train Your Dragon” with my 4 grandchildren today and enjoyed it everymuch as they did. No getting up to go to BR, No questions, all good!!!

  15. i am so excited to see this!!!! my two roommates and i are seeing it tonight :)

  16. I took my two boys to see this they loved it and so did I. I give it a big two thumbs up!

  17. Wasn't sure about it until I heard some of the reviews. Thought about waiting for the review here, but went and saw it anyway. I gotta say I loved it. Craig Ferguson was great in it. I didn't expect to like it as much as I did. Only saw it in 2D and I might have convinced my girlfriend (who had the same thoughts as me originally) to see it and if I see it again, I am seeing it in 3D. I can see how this would be great in 3D (and I am not a fan of 3D generally). I recommend it. I don't think I have really felt that way about a Dreamworks film since the original shrek? I don't know if I really felt this way about the original shrek as it was more just laughs vs laughs with heart in this one.

  18. Too bad they didn't release this before the Oscars…it could've given “Up” a run for its money in the Best Animated Film category.

    I had not interest in this movie until after reading your review, then I went to see it, and wow, it was an amazing movie. Definitely worth seeing again. And I'd rank it as the best Dreamworks film to date, for sure.

  19. Stitch

  20. Gary, I don't think there's enough interest for a spoiler post on this. Just leave a nice big warning like this:

    SPOILERS
    .
    .
    .
    .
    .

    Spoilers here

    .
    .
    .
    .

  21. Loved it, loved it, LOVED IT! And my kids did too. I saw it in IMAX 3D and thoroughly enjoyed every minute. I even caught my 7 yr old daughter pawing at the air a few times ;-)

    Vic is absolutely correct – great fun for all ages, great story, and over all a great move.

  22. The film is a feel good film that is mediocre at best. I regret paying the extra to see it in 3D. The “cinematography” was nothing special. In fact the direction was all over the place. It looked like every scene, Dreamworks let each artist do whatever they wanted for the cameras. No set style. Just copying different films. Very annoying.

  23. I saw the film finally. It's blah. I know everyone loves it and I understand why. It's “up lifting” in these hard economic times. Makes you forget your problems for a bit. But I just paid 21 bucks to see it in 3D and I'm wondering WHY?! There was nothing special about this film. Contrived. Cliche. Predictable.

  24. Hated the voice acting especially Hiccup. Character designs were fugly too. Really distracting that the main dragon looked like Stitch from Lilo and Stitch.

  25. ……just sayin

  26. SPOILER!!!
    does any one else think that what happened to hiccup at the end about his foot really sad? Like it was the best movie ever! but this was so sad it kind of made me sad for a while after. I understand that it was probably to show a deeper connection between toothless and hiccup now that they are both handicap in a way. but i just think that it is too sad, and the character is too lovable to have this happen to him

    • jms92, That bit reminded me of Seabiscuit… staring Tobey Mcguire.And i guess it was in a way a case of Hiccup ‘reaping what he sowed’ He injured the ‘Night Fury’ though he made amends by inventing a way for it to fly again, i guess fate would not be altered.

      It was sad that he lost a leg, but in a way it made the story feel more like an ancient dark fairy tale.And it sort of reminded me of Bran from Game of Thrones.He can’t climb anymore but he can still ride a horse: Hiccup can still walk and he can still fly on the back of his best friend, Toothless ;)

      In a way, i almost think the movie or story would have been better if Hiccup died, after defeating the Great Dragon… For without question like the Greek Heroes of old his kleos would be unrivaled and he would have undoutedly been defied by his viking bretheren.

      As awesome as that would be, I am glad that the kid is still alive though :P

  27. Been reading over some of your past comments. You're just a breath of fresh air, aren't you, fella?

  28. I LOVED this film! It was funny and serious, sometimes at the same time. You know, eventually it'll be really hard to find an idea that's not cliche…you can still enjoy a film that is. Just let yourself like it. But anyways, only a week after seeing it, for some strange reason I'm finding that I actually want to see it in theaters again.
    That normally doesn't happen, so good job with this one, Dreamworks! I'm normally a Pixar person, but I definitely loved this movie.

  29. Actually, this morning, it was 98% on Rotten Tomatoes…and deservedly so :)