I finally got to see How to Train Your Dragon last week. I wasn’t expecting a whole lot, truth be told- it was something to do with my kids on spring break- but I was really blown away at how much fun it was. I liked it even better than Avatar. Yeah, I went there.
Aside from the fact that I got to see the IMAX version, and I don’t know how much that added to my enjoyment, I think Dreamworks finally took a hint from Pixar and focused on telling a really fantastic story. Took those guys long enough- I’ve been waiting since the first Shrek movie for something this good.
What they did brilliantly, if I can analyze a moment, is make the main dragon, Toothless, a sufficiently ambiguous creature that the audience members could compliantly anthropomorphize and see in him a family dog. Or, say, a favorite ocelot.
Come on. Tell me that isn’t uncanny.
And then as soon as you see how adorable and cuddly Toothless is- oh look! He’s just as lovable as my kitty! awwwwww! – then they have you, a weepy puddle of goo for the climactic scene at the end as you realize that OH DEAR GOD WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?
It may not be the most subtle message, but I’ll forgive it for two reasons- one, this was a movie geared to kids where subtlety is not always a virtue; and two, Avatar was so ham-fisted with its USB-ponytail-enabled Na’vi protecting their Unobtainium (dopiest name ever) that I must accept that American moviemakers have thrown in the towel when it comes to subtext and assume we’re all morons.
To summarize: See the movie. And be nice to animals, especially really cute ones.