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How to Train Your Dragon 2

Everyone's favourite humans-versus-dragons animated adventure gets a sweet and spirited sequel.
By Sarah Ward
June 23, 2014
By Sarah Ward
June 23, 2014

In 2010's How To Train Your Dragon, the Vikings of Berk learned the virtues of embracing fears and looking beyond the surface when the plucky Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) made a friend out of one of their most fearsome foes. His fellow villagers eventually came to an accord with their fire-breathing enemies, refashioning their society to fly atop and frolic with the scaly organisms. Five years later, that lifestyle persists within the veritable dragon haven.

Alas, now another challenge confronts the peaceful settlement, with not all inhabitants of the surrounding lands and territories embracing their newfound fondness for the pests turned pets. As a trapper, Eret (Kit Harington), hunts the benevolent beasts for an evil warmonger, Drago (Djimon Hounsou), and his army of controlled creatures, Hiccup is called upon to fight for their survival once again.

Like its predecessor, How to Train Your Dragon 2 continues the page-to-screen journey of the 12-strong children's book series by Cressida Cowell; however, it uses its source material as little more than inspiration. Returning franchise writer/director Dean DeBlois goes it alone in bringing to life the second effort in a planned trilogy, not only in losing his co-helmers and scribes from the first feature, but also in shaping a story more indebted to family-friendly film formula than anything that happens to have the same name.

Of course, the template here is obvious, with a tale of the bond between animals and humans simply expanded by medieval lore and fantastical embellishments. That doesn't make it any less affecting or endearing as Hiccup strives to save his best friend, tamed dragon Toothless — just overtly familiar. The insertion of family drama continues in the same vein, more so when competing dynamics come into play. Hiccup becomes sandwiched between his chief father (Gerard Butler), who wants to anoint him his successor, and the enigmatic Valka (Cate Blanchett), with whom he shares his against-the-odds kindness.

From DreamWorks Animation, beautifully rendered visuals enliven all character interactions and their accompanying environment, but it is the sights of soaring the skies and following in Toothless's cute footsteps that fare best. Thankfully, How to Train Your Dragon 2 balances the spectacle and the intimacy, creating an effort as comfortable with its advanced action stakes as it is with its increased sweetness and sentiment.

The diverse voice cast also creates just the right emotional moments, from the high-profile additions to the repeat supporting contributors of Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller and Kristen Wiig offering more of the same. That's How to Train Your Dragon 2 all over — the new overlaid upon the far from original with ample warmth and wit, creating an agreeable animated offering never remarkable but always affable.

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