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Monday, June 16, 2014


Courtesy of 20th Century Fox
2014, 102 minutes
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor

Review by Joshua Handler

How to Train Your Dragon was an unparalleled success and when it was announced that a second one was coming, I was automatically suspicious and very worried that the it would be made to be a money-maker and nothing else.  Fortunately, I was wrong.  Dean DuBlois took over full directorial duty on this film and while the sequel isn't as great as the original, it comes close.

What makes How to Train Your Dragon soar (no pun intended) is its big heart and lovable characters.  Yes, we all know the animation is beautiful (Roger Deakins was the visual consultant which partially explains that), but the heart and characters are what won me over at the end of the day.  Hiccup, Toothless, and the rest of the characters are all well-developed, and Hiccup and Toothless are as multi-dimensional and quirky as any characters in a large-scale drama.  And the filmmakers seem to care about them and the surrounding story.  The endearing attitude they show towards the characters and the film as a whole is noticeable.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 further explores the roles of friends and family in people's lives and how strong the bond between friends can be.  Because Hiccup and Toothless are so likable, it's easy to fall in love with them all over again in this second film.  Their relationship is developed further and our emotional connection is deeper.

So many animated films are made for the lowest common denominator, so to find one that isn't full of stupid side characters, pop culture jokes, and infantile humor is refreshing in itself.  To find an animated film that's as rich as How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a miracle.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 dares to be darker and more emotional than the first, which makes viewing it a fully engrossing and enriching cinematic experience.

Overall, I enjoyed the hell out of sitting through this movie.  I enjoyed every single second.  While I didn't enjoy this one quite as much as I remember enjoying the original (I may have loved the original so much because of how surprised I was by its greatness), it comes very close to capturing the magic and should be a sure-fire contender for the Best Animated Feature Oscar come next year.  There were no cringe-worthy moments in How to Train Your Dragon 2, and there were many beautiful scenes overflowing with emotion.  As a mainstream moviegoing experience, this is nearly unbeatable.  And frankly, this is one of the better films I've seen all year.  It will appeal to adults, kids, and everyone in between.


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