(NEW YORK) -- More dragons equal more fun in this high-flying sequel.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 picks up five years after the original left off. The people of the once fear-filled island of Berk now live in splendid harmony with dragons, their former foes. Indeed, everyone now has a dragon to fit their personality: twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (T.J. Miller) share a two-headed beast, village chief Stoick (Gerard Butler) commands a fearless flyer, and our hero Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) remains best buds with the creature that started it all, Toothless.
But soon old conflicts begin to emerge. Stoick wants his son Hiccup to follow in his giant, bearded footsteps, but all Hiccup wants to do is explore new lands and invent new gadgets. The tension builds with the addition of some dragon trappers working for the cold-hearted Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), a villain new to the saga whose goal it is to enslave the beasts that have become best buds with the Vikings of Berk. Also messing with Hiccup’s mind is the discovery that his mother, Valka, (Cate Blanchett), long thought killed by dragons when Hiccup was just a baby, is actually alive and well. These storylines intertwine and explode in not one but two tense battle scenes, with some seriously sad results.
There’s a lot of emotion among the animation in How to Train Your Dragon 2. For every five laughs, there seems to be at least one solid tear-jerking moment -- and there are a lot of laughs, so expect lots of tears. This is a film about relationships and friendships, loyalty and love, and this sequel explores those themes much deeper than in the first film. It’s probably no coincidence that How to Train Your Dragon 2 is opening Father’s Day weekend, because you’re going to want to hug your dad immediately after seeing it.
Hugs are deserved all around for the folks at DreamWorks. They always do a great job with the computer animation, but this time they’ve outdone themselves in capturing the idiosyncrasies of the humans doing the voices. In one speech in particular by Hiccup, it was hard to believe it wasn’t Jay Baruchel himself walking around on the screen. The actor has a very distinctive way of moving, a kind of lanky, clumsy nervousness that the animators were able to duplicate with astonishing accuracy. From the details of the different landscapes, to the sheer volume of dragons, to the intricate layering of the hairs in Stoick’s massive beard, the animators really do a beautiful job of bringing this world to life. That said, it’s not worth the extra money to see it in 3D, as the gimmick doesn’t add much to the overall experience.
How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a lot of fun, though emotionally draining, and visually spectacular. It’s a little darker than the first film, but also more substantial. Kids, and the adults who have to take them, should have no problem staying glued to their seats for 102 minutes.
Four out of five stars.
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