Tuesday, October 18, 2011

How to Make Your Family Films

There's a loving touch to the animation of How to Train Your Dragon that almost justifies the comparisons it has received to the works of Pixar. The film is a delight to behold, filling the screen with the kind of visual fantasy that excites all the best parts of the imagination and reminds us why we watch animated features in the first place. The story is a tried and true coming-of-age tale supported by memorable characters and a good-spirited sense of humor, despite a few obvious cases of the writers trying just a bit too hard to pull a joke across. The very best moments, of course, occur between viking-in-name-only boy Hiccup and the titular dragon Toothless, who as a living animated character is one of the most powerful tacit arguments I have ever witnessed for the benefits of CGI modeling over the dying hand-drawn tradition.

My only substantial quibble is with Jay Baruchel's casting as Hiccup: I found his quite obviously adult voice utterly jarring for a supposed adolescent boy surrounded by other kids who actually sound like, you know, kids. On a second viewing it was significantly less distracting, but I still felt myself occasionally grated by Baruchel's half-hearted attempts to mimic the cracking intonation of a pubescent set of vocal cords.

That, however, is a rather minor complaint to make of a film as entertaining as this one, and its team - along with that of Kung Fu Panda - deserve some solid kudos for prying DreamWorks Animation out of the humiliating rut it's been mired in since Shrek went to shit.

Arbitrary Numerical Rating: 8/10

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