“How to Train Your Dragon 2” Review

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“A mother never forgets.”

And here I was thinking that no animated movie this year would even could close to the quality of The LEGO Movie. Silly me. Now, my enjoyment for this film might be heightened because I didn’t have necessarily high hopes for it (the previews made this one look like a stinker), but I was genuinely surprised with this one. I’d say it’s better than the first one and up there with the two Kung Fu Panda movies as some of Dreamworks’ best.

Director Dean DeBlois has stated that this film took four years to make, as he and his crew got to work on this follow-up immediately after the release of the first one, and you can tell. The visuals here are breathtaking and I’d be pressed to say it’s the best animation I’ve seen in any film. It looked a hell of a lot better than some of the similar kids films that were advertised prior to the film, Penguins of Madagascar and Home (both of which look absolutely terrible). You can tell the filmmakers actually took the time to fully realize the world that they were making for audiences.

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The story itself is also pretty impressive. On the outside looking in, the premise might seem a bit generic, but with the restraints that any kids film has, How to Train Your Dragon 2 shakes up the formula just enough that it feels fresh and fun. Clearly taking cues from The Empire Strikes Back, the film has a much darker tone than the original film did, leading many of the younger children in my audience to gasp and scream at times. To some people (parents), this might not be a good thing if you were planning really young kids to see this, but I personally loved seeing an animated movie with some bite to it.

Some of the voice-work is iffy, but maybe that’s just me. I never liked the fact that Jay Baruchel voiced Hiccup in the original because I never felt like his voice “fit” the character, and I still feel the same way here. But, I did like seeing Hiccup being a little cocky at times because that’s something that no one expects Baruchel to portray in his characters. Sadly, his character doesn’t have much of an arc, which is probably the only reason why I’m hesitant to give the film a full-fledged five out of five.

But besides that, I don’t have much negative to say about this one. It looks beautiful, the action set-pieces are exhilarating (something I can’t say about most animated features), and the film even has an extra bite to it for the parents to appreciate and the kids to be thrilled by. Here’s to hoping DeBlois can deliver a third film that can live up to this one and its predecessor. Not an easy task, but he managed to top his last film with this and somehow made Toothless even more likable this time around, which I didn’t think was even possible. So, I have faith.

“You have the heart of a chief and the soul of a dragon.”

4.5 out of 5

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