Sunday, April 4, 2010

Dreamworks WUT??!

What the hell just happened? I'm confused. My socks may be on backwards. Did I just bump my head? Was that E I bought off of Johnny Tapia of dubious quality? Did Dreamworks just make a good movie?

How To Train Your Dragon is the story of Hiccup, a witless and clumsy Viking who frankly isn't very good at being a Viking. Jay Baruchel invests Hiccup with a biting wit and sarcasm which lead me to fear this movie would fall prey to Dreamworks' typical TOO HIP FOR DIS SHIT post-ironicism cuz, like, Vikings are totally lame. I was luckily proven wrong in the first ten minutes or so.

Instead of pillaging and raping, the PG Vikings of the town of Berk are comically badass and mostly must defend their island home against raiding dragons. As the title may have spoiled, Hiccup captures a young dragon which he can't bring himself to kill. He dubs the semi-paraplegic reptile (while crash-landing, his tail fin got ripped in half) Toothless. Over the course of the second act, a not entirely unexpected friendship grows between the two outcasts. Of course, a Viking/dragon friendship is akin to an Israeli/Palestinian one, so the shit hits the fan once it is revealed why

While the plot is formulaic and contains no real surprises, it's great character work and amazing design that make this movie reach the heights it does. The chemistry between Hiccup and Toothless, two animated characters of which only one actually speaks, is rather amazing. Chris Sanders' dragon designs are full of personality and all get a chance to shine. They're so good, in fact, you'll be able to name at least three kinds of dragons within the first half hour of the movie.

If you can, catch it in 3D. I can't remember a big deal being made out of this movie's THREEEE DIMENSIONS! but it easily rivals some of the better stuff done in Avatar. Hiccup actually training Toothless, and showing off his work to rival/love interest Astrid are some of the best, most beautiful and uplifting scenes I've seen in a theater in quite a while. And there's not a hint of irony there.

It's not a perfect movie: the title is dreadfully lame, it's kind of grating that all the Vikings parents actually have Scottish accents and the kids American ones (you can just imagine a Dreamworks exec waving money at himself going HATAZ GONNA HATE BUT AUDIENCES GOTTA RELATE) and there are a few sincerity-undercutting ironic groaners in there still.

It doesn't make it any less fun though. Incredible 3D, superlative designs and two central characters that work on that intangible level only the best of movies can accomplish make make this movie a must if you have kids or just like good animation.

Congratulations, Dreamworks. Wonder suits you.

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