Sequel grows with its young audience
A follow-up to the animated 2010 DreamWorks hit about a young Viking boy and his flying dragon, this soaring sequel has grown along with its audience.
This new “Dragon” reunites director Dean DuBois with most of the original vocal cast (Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and takes place five years after the events of the first movie, as Vikings have learned to coexist with dragons instead of slay them. Now, as we see in the movie’s high-spirited opening, the feisty fire-breathers have become part of the everyday life of the mythical island of Berk, where they’re used for transportation, recreation, companionship and commerce.
“With Vikings on the backs of dragons,” says Hiccup (Baruchel), the son of the Berk’s burly tribal chief (Butler) grooming him for an eventual leadership role he doesn’t really want, “the world just got a whole lot bigger.”
And certainly a bit more complicated and dangerous--at least compared to the first movie. As Hiccup, now a gangly teenager, sails through the skies on his trusty night fury, Toothless, with his female friend, Astrid (Ferrera), he discovers a place where the inhabitants don’t see things--or treat dragons--the way they do back on Berk.
Hiccup’s discovery puts his entire village in peril and leads to yet another, even more startling revelation, an Armageddon-like, fire-and-ice showdown, and a life-changing decision. (I won’t reveal much more, but it’s connected to having Oscar-wining Cate Blanchett aboard as the voice of a new character.)
The first “Dragon,” praised by both critics and audiences, combined a rollicking, family-friendly story (adapted from Cressida Cowell’s British book series) with marvelously rendered, high-tech animation, plus a cast of colorful, amusing characters--and some dazzling scenes, especially if you saw it in 3-D. “Dragon 2” upholds those high standards, even pushing them up a couple of notches. The whole movie looks fantastic--fluid, textured and alive.
The dragons are things of whimsy, wizardry and wonder, intended to make you think of the strong bonds between people, nature and animals--at various times they mimic characteristics of puppies, ponies, birds, and butterflies. The returning supporting characters are a gaggle of loveable oddballs (Wiig, Hill, Mintz-Plasse), and a couple of new additions--especially hunky, comically inept Eret, Son of Eret (“Game of Thrones” actor Kit Harington) and the war-mongering dragon slave master Draco Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou)--both add depth and dimension to a story that’s grown up a bit over the elapsed years, just like many of its young audience members.
But the real beauty of the first “Dragon,” and now this one, is how director DuBois and his team never approached them as purely “kids’ movies.” They always aimed higher than that, without ever losing sight of the children who’d find the most resonance in the fantasy-storybook-adventure elements of the tales. Witty, rousing, heartwarming, sensational-looking, and at times touching, uplifting and even moving, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is another fine feather in DreamWorks’ cinematic cap, and proof that it is, indeed, still possible for Hollywood to make movies that virtually all ages can enjoy, appreciate and admire.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
Starring the voices of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, & Cate Blanchett. Directed by Dean DuBois. PG, 102 min.