How to Train Your Dragon ★★★★★

Oh my goodness, what a lovely film "How to Train Your Dragon" is! It’s engaging, witty, emotional, intelligent, and thoroughly entertaining. I laughed, I teared up, and I laughed some more. The movie, just like its protagonists, Hiccup and Toothless, soars to impressive heights.

Beyond the obvious fantasy-adventure aspect of the tale it tells, the film has plenty to offer. It is a beautiful coming-of-age story. It encourages being and standing up for who you really are. It exposes the detrimental effects of biases and prejudices in a society. It has a strong message about peace, respect, and violence begetting violence. These components give the movie an unexpected narrative and thematic depth.

Gorgeously animated, "How to Train Your Dragon" simply looks great. All the characters and Nordic landscapes really come alive on the screen. There is a striking individuality to every single human being and dragon, not only in terms of their physical appearance but also with regard to their personality. That kind of attention to detail strengthens the proceedings as a whole.

There are moments of sheer perfection to be found in the film, the most notable of which are the wonderful, heartwarming scenes that show Hiccup and Toothless getting to know each other and becoming close friends. Moreover, an inviting feeling of freedom characterizes the exhilarating flight sequences. And the stakes are real, which brings suspense and dramatic weight to the memorable climactic battle.

Directors and co-screenwriters (with Will Davies) Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders’ excellent filmmaking skills ensure that the movie holds the viewer’s attention throughout its 98-minute running time. Enjoyable for both children and adults, "How to Train Your Dragon" scores highly with respect to how re-watchable it is.

The cast leaves absolutely nothing to be desired. Jay Baruchel’s distinctive voice fits Hiccup perfectly. Gerard Butler has no trouble sounding authoritative in one scene and kind and fatherly in another; he’s terrific here. In other roles, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, and Kristen Wiig are all as sprightly as can be expected.

I would be remiss not to mention John Powell’s superb musical score, which incorporates bagpipes and other regional instruments to great effect. The music is finely attuned to the emotional content of each scene and thankfully never forces itself upon the viewer. And through it all runs a sense—sometimes subtle, sometimes more pronounced—of an overarching theme that adds an aural consistency to the film.