How to Train Your Dragon

Starring: Jay Baruchel Directed by: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Put your stereotype hat on and describe a Viking.  You're probably thinking big, hairy, strong, wears a helmet with horns, lived in cold northern countries in Europe (or in Minnesota) and probably swings a big axe.

In the movie How to Train Your Dragon, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a young, skinny Viking who does not seem fierce in the least.  When his village is attacked by livestock-stealing, fire-breathing dragons (which happens on a regular basis), Hiccup has to help sharpen weapons rather than join the fight.  He tries to compensate for his lack of stature with weapon-tossing contraptions, but he has a reputation for bumbling into more chaos rather than taking down a dragon.

And he wants more than anything to prove himself with a dragon kill, just like everyone else.  It's what Vikings in his village do – especially his father, Stoick the Vast.

Though Hiccup is fairly certain his bola-throwing machine downed one of the mysterious Night Fury dragons ("You can't see them…but they never miss!") during a battle, no one else saw the hit…or find the fallen dragon.  All they saw was Hiccup getting in the way during the fight.

Hiccup knows his father considers his total lack of fierceness – physically and mentally – a disappointment.  So he is shocked to learn his father is sending him to training classes with the other teenagers (including the beautiful yet fierce Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera) to learn how to kill dragons.

Of course, the other kids want nothing to do with him.  Which reminds me of the intro to the "I'm Not Okay (I Promise)" video by My Chemical Romance:

"You like D&D, Audrey Hepburn, Fangoria, Harry Houdini and croquet.  You can't swim, you can't dance and you don't know karate.  Face it, you're never going to make it!"

However, Hiccup is still convinced there's a dead or injured Night Fury in the woods somewhere – which would give him tremendous credibility in the tribe.  He finds it…but cannot bring himself to kill it.  He helps the Night Fury escapes, but it ends up trapped in a secluded valley.  Fascinated by the beast, Hiccup begins to learn about the creature's habits and devises a way to help "Toothless" fly again.

Hiccup also realizes from his training that Vikings do not know as much about dragons as they think they do – the one 'fact' applying to all of them is – EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, KILL ON SIGHT.

Can Hiccup change the way this extremely stubborn Viking tribe thinks?  Can he get through dragon killing training without actually killing a dragon?  Will his father ever be proud of him?  Will he win Astrid's heart?  (Duh, of course!  This is a kids' movie.)

Not only does the movie have all the excellent visual trappings expect of an animated feature, I thought the overall situations and themes were excellent.  Honestly,  I liked this movie better than Toy Story 3 and would find a way to teach with this movie if I were still in the classroom.

This movie was highly recommended to me by my good friend Peggy Parker, and I highly recommend it to you.

If you:

  • Have ever felt different/alone/rejected/like you just didn't fit in
  • Have ever proved the people who doubted you wrong
  • Have ever had a pet and know how rewarding it can be

Put it in the queue!

However, if you

  • Have ever felt superior to 'weaklings' and are convinced brawn is better than brains
  • Are ok with believing the conventional 'wisdom' and have never stopped to question if what we 'know' is based on experience or speculation

Don't put it in the queue.

Written by Jennifer Venson