How to Train Your Dragon 2 (PG)

 
 
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless.
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless.
DREAMWORKS ANIMATION

Movie Info

Voices: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrara, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington.

Director: Dean DeBlois.

Screenwriters: Dean DeBlois, Cressida Cowell.

A DreamWorks Animation release. Running time: 102 minutes. Mild dragon violence, adult themes. Playing at area theaters.


rrodriguez@MiamiHerald.com

Watching How to Train Your Dragon 2, you’re reminded of the thrill you felt when you saw your first computer-animated movie, be it Toy Story or A Bug’s Life or even the forgettable Antz. We’ve come to take the art form for granted, because there have been so many great ones (thanks, Pixar!). The ice castles of Frozen or the floating lanterns in Tangled momentarily stun us, then we’re on to the next thing. The ever-growing invasion of CGI in live-action movies, too, has robbed animated films of some of their impact. Visually, we’re jaded, which is part of the reason why the less-is-more approach used in Godzilla seemed so effective.

Dragon 2, which marks the return of director Dean DeBlois (a former Disney animator who directed Lilo & Stitch) has hundreds of gorgeous, jaw-dropping creatures — dragons of so many different colors and shapes and sizes, all of them soaring across the screen at the same time, that the effect is dizzying but never overwhelming: The movie offers just the right amount of spectacle. But there’s wonder, too, in the little things, such as the incredible detail and realism of the armor worn by Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), now five years older and no longer a teenager but still inseparable from his adorable dragon Toothless, a marvel of artistic design (sometimes, simpler is better). There were moments in the film when I caught myself marveling at the characters’ hair or the way the ocean waves moved. I don’t know if there’s any sort of new tool or technique at work in Dragon 2, but this is easily one of the most beautiful animated films ever made.

It’s one of the most exciting, too. Unlike most sequels, which feel like an extension of a story that became a hit, Dragon 2 feels like a true continuation, following Hiccup, his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrara) and his Viking father (Gerard Butler) as they now live and work in peace among dragons, no longer treating them as a threat (the only catch are the constant accidental fires that need to be put out; even the tamest dragon can be a hazard).

The screenplay for Dragon 2, which was written by DeBlois and Cressida Cowell (author of the popular book series that spawned the movies), is rich with incident and adventure. Hiccup may be older, but he’s not quite yet a hero, and he has much to learn from a mysterious woman (Cate Blanchett) whose help he needs to fight off a relentless dragon hunter (Djimon Hounsou) armed with a formidable weapon. The movie comes up with all sorts of surprises, such as dragons that breathe ice instead of fire, and in the honored tradition of Disney classics, it dares to take some dark turns worthy of George R.R. Martin, minus the gore and violence, of course. This is first and foremost a children’s movie. But it also has weight and heft, and it doesn’t settle for reprising the rib-tickling thrills of the first film, which turned Hiccup’s dragon rides into swooping roller-coaster visuals. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is its own standalone picture, with a surprising range of emotions that surpasses the original and a brisk pace and manner of storytelling that give it purpose and direction. The fact that it’s also so much fun, no matter what your age, almost feels like a bonus.

 

Read more Reeling with Rene Rodriguez stories from the Miami Herald

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">“Life After Death”:</span> Zach (Dane DeHaan) finds his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza) is behaving strangely after somehow coming back from the dead.

    Life After Beth (R)

    Life After Beth starts out as a cracked, comical take on Stephen King’s Pet Sematary. Zach (Dane DeHaan) is a young man mourning the death of his girlfriend Beth (Aubrey Plaza). At home, his parents patronize him and his older brother (a funny Matthew Gray Gubler) bullies him, so he starts spending time with the late girl’s family (John C. Reilly and Molly Shannon). Being with them make him feel closer to Beth, even though they seem to be acting fairly calmly in light of such a calamity.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Magic in the Moonlight’:</span> Colin Firth is a stage magician trying to disprove the abilities of an acclaimed psychic (Emma Stone).

    Magic in the Moonlight (PG-13)

    The inherent problem in cranking out a movie (sometimes two!) every year, as Woody Allen has been doing for the last 34 years, is that some of them are inevitably going to be dogs. Does someone have a gun to the filmmaker’s head that forces him to proceed with half-baked, joyless comedies such as Magic in the Moonlight instead of tossing bad ideas out and starting fresh? This is, at best, a 20-minute TV episode extended to feature length, and the stretch marks show. Boy, do they show. That’s practically all you can see, really.

  •  
 <span class="cutline_leadin">‘Guardians of the Galaxy’:</span> Zoe Saldana, Dave Bautista and Chris Pratt form an unlikely team of space-jockey superheroes.

    Guardians of the Galaxy (PG-13)

    Watching the zippy, ebullient Guardians of the Galaxy, you wonder “Why can’t all comic-book movies be this much fun?”

Miami Herald

Join the
Discussion

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category