This is a film for the whole family to enjoy over and over again. "How to Train your Dragon" takes difficult themes like not fitting in, being not cut from the same cloth as those around you, and being physically handicapped (by the end the teen protagonist becomes physically handicapped post battle) and handles these themes in a sensitive and exemplary way.
Dreamworks really took care in their product. I read later that the movie had been screened to tester audiences of families who loved it and wanted the story and ending with his handicap to remain just as it is.
It is stunning to look at. Perhaps it's just me but I get whiplash. We are indeed looking at the work of animators who went to flight school graduating with certificates in order to understand the physics of flying and apply that to the dragons and their riders. It is stunning to listen to: sound effects, score and voice acting.
- Great messages: You betcha.
- Great role models: Both the protagonist Hiccup, and his father Stoic are very relatable characters who may not make the best decisions but prove to have and develop great moral values. Hiccup's unique trait is his selflessness even toward creatures such as the dragons who are usually feared, hunted and killed, and his curiosity to continually be learning about them and finding ways where humans and dragons could be peaceful. The sense of responsibility is great with this teenager and with his father, which is not easily captured in children's movies. The female hero is called Astrid, one of Hiccup's age-matches and classmates. She is the kind of "son" Stoic wants Hiccup to be; she has the makings of a true viking warrior in skill and mindset. Very unique, this film. Astrid becomes a large part of Hiccup's motivation to make the difficult and right decisions, and risks her own life, as does the rest of the classmates, to help him save the people and the dragons.
- Too much violence: Teens ride dragons who breathe fire and have sharp teeth and the swiftness of predatory animals, but sometimes have the docility of domesticated dogs and cats especially after some time toward the protagonist and eventually toward his classmates. They go to battle against a great dragon to defend their city in which the protagonist becomes physically handicapped. If that sounds violent, it is. But not for the sake of being graphic or macabre and that scored major points for me. The people are vikings so you get stories and a vibe that violence is in their "culture" or in their "blood" or "genetics" - which makes Hiccup particularly unique as he is a peace-seeker. The vikings are a cooperative and generally peaceful people toward each other and fiercely defensive of their city.
- Too much sex: The protagonist initially wants to get better at his job / role in order to impress girls and eventually have a girlfriend. There are I count two kisses. There's not much really to talk about in this category.
- Too much swearing: It must have gone over my head because the adults have a thick Scottish accent and the children have more North American accents. They do fling names around but they're creative and albeit humorous. There's not much to talk about in this category.
- Too much drinking / drugs / smoking: I don't recall any of that.