How to Train Your Dragon 2

Directed by:  Dean DeBlois

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Djimon Hounsou, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, and Jonah Hill

This past weekend was more than just Jonah Hill’s one-two punch in theaters with 22 Jump Street and How to Train Your Dragon 2.  In a world flooded with computer animated films, it is rare to see something new and fresh.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 not only exceeds the original film, but it stands apart from other computer animated films.  With phenomenal animation, complex battle sequences, and real drama, Dragon 2 delivers a summer blockbuster for the entire family.

Five years have passed since the original film, and times have changed in the land of Berk.  Thanks to Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), the Vikings no longer hunt and kill dragons.  Instead, they live in harmony, and each Viking has a dragon friend/pet.  Hiccup is now twenty years old.  He has adapted to having a prosthetic limb, and riding Toothless, his dragon, enables him to fly.  Hiccup is still struggling to figure out who he is, but his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) wants to start training him to become chief.  Hiccup still feels like a scrawny kid next to his noble, brave and powerful father.  He does not believe he can ever live up to Stoick the Vast.

While Hiccup is out with his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrara), he stumbles across dragon hunters. The hunters work for Drago (Djimon Hounsou), a dangerous man who captures dragons and enslaves them.  Drago is building a massive army of dragons.  Hiccup reports back to his father about Drago's plans.  Stoick wants to hunker down and prepare for a fight with the enemy.  Hiccup decides to defy his father and flies out on Toothless in an effort to reason with Drago. On his quest to avoid a war, Hiccup discovers that his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) is still alive.  Valka lives in a dragon sanctuary controlled by an Alpha dragon, the Bewilderbeast.  Meanwhile, Stoick, Astrid, Gobber (Craig Ferguson), Snotlout (Jonah Hill), Ruffnet (Kristen Wiig), and others rush to find Hiccup before he gets himself killed. 

As the resident mom film critic, I have seen my share of computer animated films.  How to Train Your Dragon 2 was an unexpected delight.  With beautiful imagery, fun characters and fast-paced action sequences, Dragon 2 is truly a larger than life summer movie.  As an initial matter, the film delivers perhaps the best depiction of dragons on film.  Animation provides more freedom for studios to depict fire-breathing dragons than a live action film.  In this sequel, the dragons are more integrally woven into the plot as friends rather than foes, and this allows the filmmakers to deliver a wider array of colorful, powerful dragons.  Whether the dragons are playfully playing with the elderly, flying around a dragon oasis, or shooting laser fire shots at enemies, they are a sight to behold.

Additionally, the film delivers adult themes and emotional impact as well.  Family woes, bravery, power struggles, and finding the courage to follow your own path are prominent themes throughout the film. These issues are adeptly tackled with humor and heart. The film even casually incorporates a gay Viking, done with comedic flair by Craig Ferguson.  If I had one criticism, it would be that Hiccup, played by Jay Baruchel, can occasionally veer towards being a little too neurotic and whiny.  

How to Train Your Dragon 2 earns a 0.03% rating.  It is an action-packed, fun sequel.  For parents with smaller children, some of the larger dragons may be a little too scary.