Oscar Profile: How To Train Your Dragon

by Tom Ingram

The history of Dreamworks is a sad one. Back in the day, they produced great animated movies like Antz, Chicken Run, and Shrek. Even as late as 2005 they were still producing the occasional good movie. Wallace and Gromit was excellent, and if I recall correctly Madagascar wasn’t as bad as everyone said it was. But it descended into a cycle of endless half-assed talking animal comedies and Shrek sequels. The best they’ve been able to manage since then is mindlessly entertaining output like Monsters vs Aliens.

How To Train Your Dragon is proof that, if they put their minds to it, they’ve still got it. Adapted from a series of British children’s novels, the movie is about Hiccup, a the teenage son of Stoick the Vast, chief of a clan of Vikings who speak with inexplicably Scottish accents. Yes, that is Craig Ferguson as the chief’s friend and advisor Gobber the Belch.

Hiccup’s village is plagued by dragon attacks which they only barely manage to fight off. In an attempt to look cool for the lady vikings, Hiccup uses a cannon he built himself to shoot down a Night Fury, the mysterious dragons that no one has ever seen up close. When he tells the other villagers, none of them believe him. He sets off into the forest to find the downed dragon, but he can’t bring himself to kill it. Instead, he nurses it back to health, feeds it, and develops a friendship with it.

The graphics are beautifully detailed, and the wide, sweeping shots and gigantic dragon battles are a visual treat. Still, How To Train Your Dragon isn’t just a technological marvel. It’s got a talented cast, a solid script, and the heartfelt teenage defiance story is tempered by jokes, physical comedy and a couple of really good fight scenes.

Nominations

How To Train Your Dragon is up for Best Animated Feature and Best Original Score. The music is very good, but it’s also competing with Inception and The King’s Speech, not to mention the trendy option of The Social Network.

Its chances at Best Animated Feature are essentially nil, which is a tragedy. If it had come out this year, against Pixar’s Cars 2, it would deserve to win. But 2010’s Pixar offering is Toy Story 3 which, quite simply, is not going to lose. Unfortunately, due to a simple matter of timing, How To Train Your Dragon will have to be happy with second place.

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