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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Dragons: Rescue Riders: Hunt for the Golden Dragon is a TV special based on the series Dragons: Rescue Riders and features many of the same characters. The colors are bright, and the mood is light, even though the Riders are on a quest that could be dangerous. Any menace or peril doesn't linger, and the action is lightened by gentle jokes. Violence is cartoonish, with characters getting pushed over, bonked in the head, attacked by an army of flying bugs, and trapped in a cave. There are cannons, and dragons blast each other with fire, water, and even golden glitter. But there's no blood or death, and even when characters are trapped, things never seem hopeless. The villains (who all have "foreign" European accents, while heroes all sound generically American) are fun, colorful, and not too scary. And the Riders' quest to save a rare and precious dragon egg is a noble one. Characters demonstrate courage and perseverance, and the brother-sister pair at the center of the action is brave, loyal, and loving. This special is good whole-family viewing for clans with young kids.
What's the story?
Featuring the characters and setting of Dragons: Rescue Riders, DRAGONS: RESCUE RIDERS: HUNT FOR THE GOLDEN DRAGON follows twins Leyla (voiced by Brennley Brown) and Dak (Nicolas Cantu), who were raised by dragons and can communicate with them. In this special, Dak, Leyla, and the dragons in their Rescue Rider squad learn that it's almost time for the legendary Golden Dragon to give birth to an egg. But villainous pirates Maldondo (Carlos Alazraqui), Erik the Wretched (Jeff Bennett), and Svetlana the Sly (Mary Elizabeth McGlynn) plan to use a treasure map and the Rescue Riders to steal the egg and get rich. Can the twins and their dragon friends -- Burple (Noah Kaye Bentley), Winger (Zach Callison), Summer (Skai Jackson), and Cutter (Andre Robinson) -- keep the Golden Dragon's egg safe?
Is it any good?
Sweet and just adventurous enough for young viewers, this special takes its cue from the Rescue Riders series it's based on, with a simple-to-follow quest executed with dash and daring. The Rescue Riders are, as usual, focused on helping dragons in need, but Hunt for the Golden Dragon changes this setup a little by getting a treasure map into the Riders' hands when the movie starts. Viewers will love trying to solve the clues, which are appealingly semi-mystical but not too tough for kids who are good at puzzles and logical thinking. They'll also enjoy the obstacles the Riders must face along the way to the eventual happy ending, which have just a touch of menace -- such as bug-eyed flying creatures advancing en masse toward the Riders. But those challenges are lightened by humor, like when Burple belches up one of those creatures and says, "What? I like to try new things!"
In fact, Hunt for the Golden Dragon's slightly slapstick humor is imported intact from the original How to Train Your Dragon film, while that movie's edgier violence has been wisely left behind. In a scene in which Dak is trying to rescue the Riders' treasure map when it blows away, Dak and a grouchy sheep face off like a duel in a western movie. Their eyes meet as they square off, the sheep spits as a guitar twangs on the soundtrack, and then the duel is interrupted by a timely rescue from a dragon friend. Even Hunt's villains are too busy scheming and arguing with each other to provide much in the way of peril. With satisfying messages about loyalty, friendship, courage, and kindness, this special is a family-friendly treat that dragon lovers will deeply appreciate.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why animated movies aimed at young people oftentimes revolve around some type of quest: an attempt to rescue something or someone, a fight against a villain, a search for an object. Why does a quest make a good story? Is it the outcome or the journey that makes a quest compelling?
All of the villains in Dragons: Rescue Riders: Hunt for the Golden Dragon sound like they come from European countries, while Dak, Leyla, and the dragons have American accents. What kind of stereotypes can you identify in this movie?
- On DVD or streaming: March 27, 2020
- Cast: Noah Kaye Bentley, Brennley Brown, Zach Callison
- Director: Greg Rankin
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Brothers and Sisters, Friendship, Pirates
- Character strengths: Compassion, Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 46 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 9, 2020
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