How to Train Your Dragon concerns a youth and his best friend, a dragon. Sound familiar? Been there, done that with Eragon, Mulan, Pete's Dragon, and a dozen others. For a refresher course, check out the site Dragons of the Silver and Small Screen.
Of course, this 3D effort by the writers/directors of Lilo & Stitch, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, is often visually enticing, yet after viewing Avatar so recently, the Pow! Factor is at times missing. How quickly our expectations for what's screened in our cinemas keep rising. I remember when one of my students complained Psycho was boring because there were not enough murders.
Anyway, at the screening I attended, boisterous little toddlers, who screeched during the opening Dragon credits, apparently were mesmerized by what they later saw through their 3D goggles, and their yaps remained shut for the rest of the picture. Either that's a great recommendation, or the Valium I sprinkled on their popcorn kicked in.
The hero here is a young Viking lad, who for some ungodly reason is named Hiccup (blandly voiced by Jay Baruchel). Going a tidbit Freudian, Hiccup is your ordinary pre-homosexual lad who hates sports and killing dragons, who is considered an uncoordinated klutz by his peers, and who falls in love with a tomboy. He doesn't come out in this segment, but apparently in the upcoming sequel, How to Train Your Hairdresser, Hiccup develops a crush on a Justin-Bieber lookalike and conquers a brigade of right-wing fundamentalist giant squid.
Here, however, the motherless Hiccup, who resides on the Island of Berk, which is located on "the meridian of Misery," learns all by himself that dragons are not his clan's enemies, but are misunderstood, lovable creatures that the Vikings should befriend and stop slaughtering. Can his dragon-phobic dad, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), be won over to this pacifist, pro-PETA message? You're darn tootin' he can!
But, sadly, not before the picture gave me a raging headache, which I just discovered is not at all an uncommon response to the 3D experience.
Yet with aspirin by your side, if you are a parent who doesn't mind your children dreaming nightly of battling gargantuan, carnivorous, fire-breathing lizards, How to Train Your Dragon is a comparatively cheap babysitter. - Brandon Judell
Mr. Judell is featured in Rosa von Praunheim's forthcoming documentary New York Memories. In the spring, he'll be teaching "The Image of the Jew in Post-World War II European Cinema" and "Gay and Lesbian Literature" at The City College of New York. He has written on film for The Village Voice, indieWire, Detour, and The Advocate, and is anthologized in Cynthia Fuchs's Spike Lee Interviews (University Press of Mississippi).