Video Verdict: ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

 

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) learns to tame a beast named Toothless in the animated film “How to Train Your Dragon.”

 

It’s a relatively slow week on home video, but it’s not a wash. That’s because the most noteworthy title, “How to Train Your Dragon,” is both a great film and one of the top-grossing theatrical releases of 2010 so far.

 

How to Train Your Dragon
Available Friday, Oct. 15
3 stars (out of four)
Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language
DreamWorks
Available on: DVD and Blu-ray

It’s not easy being the son of a great man, and it’s particularly difficult when your father is a large and powerful warrior who didn’t pass his genetic prowess along. Such is the plight of Hiccup, the slight, young Viking at the heart of “How to Train Your Dragon.”

Hiccup’s father, Stoick, is leader of their Viking tribe, and Hiccup dreams of making his father proud by becoming a dragon slayer. Sadly, his small size and general lack of combat skills make that goal difficult to reach.

Hiccup does, however, compensate for lack of muscle with ingenuity. And one night, during a raid, he uses a self-made cannon to shoot down a dangerous breed of dragon known as a Night Fury. Sadly, nobody sees him do it, so he trudges into the woods determined to locate the downed beast and kill it. Alas, he finds himself unable to follow through. In fact, he ends up befriending the dragon and naming it Toothless.

Since Vikings and dragons have long been enemies, Hiccup has to keep his friendship secret, but it has implications that will eventually change the lives of everyone in his tribe.

The film is based on the children’s novels by Cressida Cowell, but co-writers and directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois have taken substantial liberties with the plot. That’s not a problem, though, because “Dragon” is terrific in its own right. Although different than the books, the movie is cleverly crafted and filled with worthwhile themes, including the argument that one should always keep an open mind.

These days, most big-budget cartoons are visually impressive, and “How to Train Your Dragon” doesn’t disappoint. The animation is beautiful, and the sequences where Toothless takes flight are particularly well-rendered and exciting. The film also gets points for its solid voice cast, which includes Jay Baruchel as Hiccup, Gerard Butler as Stoick and Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill and Christopher Mintz-Plasse in supporting roles.

The movie is available as part of multiple home video releases, including a two-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack. Extra features vary.

 

 

ALSO OUT THIS WEEK

“Jonah Hex”: Josh Brolin plays a scarred, old West bounty hunter who agrees to track down a terrorist in order to clear the warrants on his head. Megan Fox, John Malkovich, Michael Fassbender and Will Arnett also star. Adapted from the DC comic book series.

“Leaves of Grass”: Edward Norton plays identical twins who get involved in a plot to take down an Oklahoma drug lord. Tim Blake Nelson, who directed the film, also has a starring role. Other cast members include Susan Sarandon, Richard Dreyfuss and Keri Russell.

“I Am Love”: The patriarch of an Italian family shocks everyone by naming his son and grandson sole successors to his business. Directed by Luca Guadagnino. Tilda Swinton stars. Presented in Italian, Russian and English with subtitles.

“Wolverine and the X-Men – The Complete Series”: All 26 episodes of the animated series based on the Marvel Comics superheroes. The series starts at a time when the X-men have disbanded, but Wolverine gets the group back together in hopes of preventing a worldwide catastrophe.

“The Essential Bugs Bunny Collection”: Twenty classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, including a handful that are making it to DVD for the first time. The latter include “How Bugs Bunny Won the West,” “Bugs Bunny’s Wild World of Sports” and “Hare and Loathing in Las Vegas.”

“The Darjeeling Limited”: Criterion Collection release of co-writer/director Wes Anderson’s 2007 film about three estranged brothers who attempt to reconnect on a train journey across India. Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman star.

“The Magician”: This 1958 Ingmar Bergman drama stars Max von Sydow as traveling magician and potion seller who faces powerful skeptics at one of his stops. Presented by the Criterion Collection in Swedish with English subtitles.

“Ghost Whisperer” – The Fifth Season: Final season of the CBS drama about a woman (Jennifer Love Hewitt) with the ability to communicate with ghosts. David Conrad, Camryn Manheim and Jamie Kennedy also star.

“The Tudors” – The Complete Final Season: The last 10 episodes of the Showtime series based on the adventures of England’s Henry VIII. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Henry Cavill, Nick Dunning and James Frain star.

“S&MAN”: Documentary film exploring underground fetish horror movies and what they say about viewers. Directed by JT Petty (“The Burrowers”).

 

 

Forrest Hartman is an independent film critic whose byline has appeared in some of the nation’s largest publications. For more of his work visit http://www.ForrestHartman.com. E-mail him at Forrest@ForrestHartman.com.

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