Most children are emotionally attached to the movies they grew up watching–myself included. The thing is, kid’s movies have gone downhill lately (just like the rest of the movie industry). I’ve been forced to realize this, as I take my younger (and autistic) cousin to see all the latest kid’s movies. Rio, Despicable Me, Megamind, etc. Usually I pass the time by doodling on a box of candy, mentally balancing my checkbook, or just falling asleep. But one kid’s movie of the past year made me sit up and pay attention. Heck, I was probably more interested in the movie than my cousin. That movie was How to Train Your Dragon.
I went into it thinking that it would be just another kid’s movie (and the advertising campaign didn’t help raise my expectations). But it was far more than that. Here’s why:
The main character had a problem that I could identify with, that of not being “cool” and accepted into society (i.e. a geek). I stopped caring about being uncool a long time ago, but the fact that I could identify with the main character helped pique my interest in the movie.
The movie had deeper meaning than “a kid who’s pet is in danger.” It’s a story of internal struggle as well as external struggle as the main character conquers his fears and apprehensions and learns that not everything he’s been taught is true. And it did this in a way that wasn’t cheesy; it took its time and developed this aspect, rather than just cramming it all into a “moment of truth” like some kid’s movies do.
The humor was timeless, not based on a bunch of pop-culture references like the majority of kid’s movies. Scenes such as the one where Toothless chases around the reflected light of a hammer like a cat chases a laser pointer genuinely made me laugh.
The soundtrack was impressive; this is the only soundtrack to a kid’s movie I’ve ever bought on its own.
The ending was uncertain (and not entirely happy). This is something that almost never happens, but really contributes to the memorability of a movie. When Hiccup and Toothless were falling in slow-motion into an explosion, I genuinely wasn’t sure whether or not they’d make it out. If this were any other movie, I’d be thinking, “Hurry up and skip the drama, I know they’ll be fine,” but not this movie. Something just made it uncertain (for me anyway). I thought that maybe it would be the next Bambi or Lion King–that someone would actually die. That didn’t happen, but the main character still lost one of his legs (eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the leg Hiccup lost was on the same side that Toothless lost part of his tail). So yeah, the ending might have been “happy,” but still resulted in the main character being mamed for life. This added unpredictability to the movie, which is part of the reason I liked it as much as I did. It also made the reliance of Toothless on Hiccup and vice versa more solid.
Overall, I was impressed by the quality of this kid’s movie. This movie came right as I was starting to believe that talent in writing kid’s movies was gone forever. I still believe that for the most part, kid’s movies nowadays suck. But this movie rose above that sea of mediocrity and shined. Yes, this movie had balls, something I can’t say about most recent kid’s movies.