Thursday, June 12, 2014

Movie Review: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’

 ***** out of 5
102 minutes
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor
DreamWorks Animation

Article first published as Movie Review: ‘How to Train Your Dragon 2’ on Blogcritics.

Sequels that are equal to or surpass the original are few and far between. But, if there was anywhere they manage to pull this off best, it’s in animated films. From the Toy Story sequels to Kung Fu Panda 2, it shows that when you take time nurturing a sequel you can come up with something that lives up to expectations. This time, DreamWorks Animation brings us How to Train Your Dragon 2, one of the best sequels to come out of Hollywood in a long time. Filled with everything that made the original such a breath of fresh air while taking the story to new heights, it proves itself as more than just a merchandising cash-cow in every scene.

How to Train Your Dragon 2Dragon 2 picks up five years after the events of the first film with the Vikings of Berk living peacefully amongst their old enemy dragons. Now, dragons are pets and everyone has their own. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and Toothless are better friends than ever, enjoying the freedom of flight while finding undiscovered areas that Hiccup adds to his expanding map of the lands. Hiccup’s father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler) wants him to take over as chief, but Hiccup has bigger fish to fry after discovering an ice-covered island home to more dragons than they ever thought existed. This dragon utopia happens to be run by Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), a dragon master who also happens to be Hiccup’s long-lost mother. Soon enough, the dragons are under attack by the evil Drago (Djimon Hounsou), who wants to take over all of the dragons to make an army and disrupt the peace of the land.

Writer/director Dean DeBlois makes a solo venture here—his usual partner-in-crime (Chris Sanders) was busy with The Croods—and does a fantastic job. The dragons still come off as hilariously dog-like and the voice cast sounds like they’re having a blast. Even the secondary characters are given chances to shine instead of being throwaway comedic sidekicks. Kristen Wiig’s Ruffnut character is the funniest as she fawns over hunky dragon hunter Eret (voiced by Kit Harington). Dragon 2 features exhilarating visuals that demand to be seen in 3D. It has a broader scope, but still finds plenty of necessary human moments, especially with the addition of Hiccup’s mother. Filled with every bit as much heart, adventure, danger, and hilarity as the original, How to Train Your Dragon 2 rivals The Lego Movie for best animated film of the year.

Photo courtesy DreamWorks Animation

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