Director: Dean DeBlois
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Kristen Wiig, America Ferrera, Kit Harington, Gerard Butler, Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, T.J. Miller, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Djimon Hounsou, Craig Ferguson
Rated: PG (adventure action and some mild rude humor)
When Hiccup and Toothless discover an ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace.
How to Train Your Dragon 2
By Matt Greene
Rarely is kid’s movie sequel more than a soulless money-grab, but HTTYD2 is unique. Like the Toy Story films, it brings purposeful and legitimate storytelling to its franchise. The sweepingly astounding visuals we’ve come to expect are still here; throw in great characters, strong emotions, and thrilling fun, you have fantasy adventure movie-making at its best.
HTTYD2 picks up five years after the first, with humans and dragons co-existing harmoniously, and Hiccup is struggling between his passion for exploring and his duty to take up the responsibilities of his father as village chief. All the brightly ranging characters we loved in the first are here, with Miyazaki-like creature and world building propelling them. The back story and lore is heart-wrenching, the adventure is inspired, but the core relationship between Hiccup and his dragon, Toothless, is the foundation: sweet, believable, and complex. Throw in the best score of the year, it was hard not to stand up and cheer with exhilaration at the truly surprising plotting.
These elements are enough to highly recommend any movie, but HTTYD2 is more fearless than most children’s stories. The emotional complexities of character decisions, the will-versus-destiny questions, the inevitability of war where peace should reign…far from what we see in most kid’s fare. The first one swept us off our feet and the sequel does the same, while managing to burrow deeper into your core. It even got a little dusty in the theatre a couple of times. Manipulation? Maybe…but when a movie is this close to perfection, it’s hard to care or even notice.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
How to Train Your Dragon 2
By Cole Schneider
Like its predecessor, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is an incredibly successful epic animated action-adventure-comedy, but why sets it apart is its rich characters and it’s emotional pull. Rare is the kids movie that grips it’s audience in any way beyond a superficial escape, but “How to Train Your Dragon 2” will grab children and adults alike. John Powell’s score and the work of the animation team can both rival the grandeur of the first film.
The whole movie is an undeniably unbridled success. Where the first film was about a child’s maturity, self-discovery, and his relationships with his pet dragon, Toothless, and his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), the second film builds on and expands all of that.
Now several years older, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) isn’t just leaving childhood, he’s entering adulthood. Now with more self-confidence, he needs a new challenge to expand the world he has conquered. Now with things getting along generally well with his father, a new relationship enters the scene (hint: it’s not the clichéd romance we’ve come to expect from movies like this).
In all, it’s a more mature work than the first even if the story is not quite as clean nor is it as funny. The franchise is as constantly and pleasantly surprising as any kids franchise this side of “Toy Story” and hopefully it raises the bar for Dreamworks Animation Studios. This isn’t just a must-see for kids and parents, it’s a must-see for anyone with $10 to spare.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars