Dreamworks lesson: dragon training not just for kids

Film ReviewHow to Train Your Dragon★★★★★

Have you hugged your inner child today? If not, don't worry: Go see How to Train Your Dragon and your inner child will never need another hug again.

A richly textured and imaginative ride for children as well as adults, Dreamworks' newest animated feature is a fantastic film for all. Though the movie has some noticeable lacks in story and character development, this deficiency is more than made up for with its sheer visual and emotional wonder, taking audiences on a heartwarming, humorous flight through the magical skies of Berk and around the rocky terrains of life, family and friendship.

The tale starts in a lovely Viking town on the island of Berk, where the residents' idyllic lives are constantly interrupted by one itty bitty little problem: daily dragon attacks. To defend their village from fiery death, all the Vikings have trained themselves to be mean, dragon-slaying machines. All the Vikings, that is, minus Hiccup.

The scrawny, clumsy son of village chief Stoic the Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler) and head dragon-wrangler, Hiccup (Jay Barunchel), despite his best efforts, can't quite live up to the family legacy. After miraculously capturing, and then freeing, the Night Fury, the island's rarest and most powerful dragon, Hiccup forms an unlikely friendship and begins a journey of self-discovery and personal growth, finally realizing that, sometimes, the best way to fly is your own way.

Sounds like just another run-of-the-mill, funny, feel good, family film, doesn't it? To some extent, that's exactly what Dragon is. But to dismiss the movie as a silly kid's film would be as foolish as riding a dragon over an active volcano without wearing a safety harness.

This movie is, without a doubt, a work of art. Visually, it is absolutely stunning: A match, even, for Avatar's celebrated computer-generated imagery and the smoothest example of Pixar animation. If audiences were to experience the entire film without a single sound, I dare say that it'd still be worth a $7 ticket.

To go through the whole thing silently would be a disservice, though; the images may enchant the eyes, but it's the story that captivates and charms the viewers' hearts. Supported by a strong vocal cast, the film brings life and soul to its characters, carefully crafting a sincere story that is as witty and sweet as it is poignantly, beautifully sad.

The only trouble with Dragon is that it's too short. At only an hour and a half, the movie, unfortunately, has no time to fully flesh out certain relationships or its hysterically quirky side-characters. Even so, Dragon is Dreamworks' strongest picture to date and the best movie this year; fun, inventive and extremely easy on the eyes, it may give Pixar a run for its Oscar.