We saw 'How To Train Your Dragon' (though Dreamworks seems to have had a late change of heart, and spent most of the promo period calling it 'Dragons'...odd) this weekend. And, well, it's really great. It's ultimately just a fairly sappy cliched aimed-at-kids movie on fairly well-worn plot lines, but a few things about it made it stand out for me.
One, it doesn't try far too hard, like most Dreamworks movies do. You could tell it was based on a book, and a fairly good one at that; there was a good depth of material there, for such an essentially simple plot. It didn't feel at all forced.
Two, it may be cliched, but cliches exist for a good reason: the heroes-ultimately-triumph-over-nailbiting-adversity trope is as powerful as ever, when done properly, and this movie does it very well.
Three, it avoided many of the more annoying bear traps of the genre. It's quite a gentle movie...it sort of follows the 'misunderstood genius kid' conventions, but no-one really hates the misunderstood genius kid. There isn't an obvious nasty bully for the misunderstood genius kid to triumph over. It's done more quietly than that, and you can engage more with the characters because of it. The dragons don't talk, and aren't treated as humans-in-stupid-costumes; they're clearly animals, and they respond as animals. All the way through, it avoids getting stuff wrong that it could have got really wrong.
But most importantly, four, the thing I really loved about it is that it manages, in a subtle, gentle and non-preachy way, to emphasize the virtues of research and invention. Which is really pretty clever for an 80 minute animated kid flick. It doesn't sound very good if I say it has a couple of really neat, short, montages of what is, essentially, observational biology, but it does. And they are neat, and they work. Genius!
Okay, I lied. The fifth thing is the most important. It has Craig Ferguson in it, and everyone loves Craig Ferguson. Not only that, but it has Craig Ferguson doing a silly comedy Scottish accent...even though he actually is Scottish.
If you have kids, please, take them to see this movie. It'll be good for them, and you'll probably like it too.