|How to Train Your Dragon
Starring Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, and Craig Ferguson
It’s no Up, but How to Train Your Dragon is an engaging, smart, and animated piece of animation, blending a story that’s easy to follow with a sense of humor more geared for parents than their kids. In the Viking village of Berk, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is an unlikely hero. Surrounded by burly bearded Norsemen, he's a clumsy flyweight whose every effort to help the village fight the airborne attacks by hordes of dragons backfires. But when he wounds the feared Night Fury dragon and realizes he doesn’t have it in him to kill anything, a curious friendship is born. The film is based on the popular book series by British authoress Cressida Cowell. She's no relation, although her husband is also named Simon Cowell, because that's just the way the world works sometimes. There are plenty of books DreamWorks can return to down the road, even a prequel (Hiccup the Seasick Viking). Supposing the movie does well, the studio might see this as an opportunity to pick up where Shrek leaves off for two reasons. 1) Shrek winds down this summer, and 2) They're two franchises cut from the same cloth, so it's a perfect fit. It is a wholly separate consideration to think about box office here; having said that, it's the kind of story with the kind of characters audiences will probably want to see plenty more of in the next few years. That's a sign of a good film in a lot of cases: Would you spend two more hours with these same people? And the answer is yes. Train Your Dragon is another addition to the growing collection of Fractured Fairy Tales, fantasy stories imbued with very contemporary dialogue and humor. Because it's based on previously published material, its story never feels empty or shows signs of struggle; the filmmakers dip into the work Cowell has already done building Berk and the folklore of these dragons and give the movie a pretty solid foundation to work from.