Hiccup is a young Viking who is yet to kill his first dragon. It’s not that he doesn’t want to; he’s just not very good at it. When his new contraption enables him to capture a rare ‘Night Fury’ dragon, he sees his chance to prove himself to his father and the rest of his village. However, having a change of heart when looking into the dragon’s eyes, he decides to try to befriend the dragon (whom he has named ‘Toothless’). Before long he finds himself able to train Toothless and also discovers that dragon’s aren’t as bad as everyone else thinks.  With Hiccup’s father waging a war against them, Hiccup must convince everyone of the truth before Toothless and the other dragons are wiped out.

How To Train Your Dragon (2010) – Directors: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Is How To Train Your Dragon appropriate for kids

Rating: PG

Running Length: 98 mins

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera

Genre: Animated, Fantasy

REVIEW

Based on the book of the same name by Cressida Cowell, ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ focuses on the relationship between a young man and his pet dragon. The dragon, ‘Toothless’, is adorable; acting very much like a cat (indeed his movements and mannerisms were based upon a domesticated mountain lion) and is bound to be loved by both kids and adults. While it is very much a kids’ film, it isn’t too saccharine sweet or patronising which makes it much more enjoyable for adults to watch as well. The main criticism of the movie is the main protagonist, Hiccup, who doesn’t look or sound like he’s part of the Viking village of which he is so desperately trying to belong. He comes across as a modern American teenager and, when the other young people of the village look right, Hiccup is completely different. His voice is a little irritating and, when his father, Stoick (played by Gerard Butler) has a strong Scottish accent, it is a little jarring that Hiccup talks with an American accent.

The animation is magical, especially when Hiccup rides on Toothless’ back and the attention to detail is wonderful. The messages of the movie are also good; that it is better to think things through before taking rash action. Hiccup’s contraption that initially captures Toothless without killing him allows him to see the dragon as a sentient being rather than something to be destroyed which leads to him realising that all dragons deserve the right to live. His father’s dogmatic prejudice against dragons almost causes untold damage to both the dragons and the village when they confront the gigantic, aggressive dragon and although the ‘realisation that previously held truths are, in fact, wrong’ element of the story is as old as time itself, that doesn’t detract from this film making the message powerful and effective.

How To Train Your Dragon’ is a great movie which is uplifting and fun; the story moves at a good pace and never seems to be rushing through to the end. It is very likely to become a firm favourite of any child who enjoys a fantasy story involving animals and dragons and, while there may be repeated viewings, any adults watching will probably enjoy watching it just as much as the kids.

IS ‘HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON’ SUITABLE FOR CHILDREN?

The introduction of the movie is an action sequence with narration explaining that the local ‘pests’ for the town of Berk are, in fact, dragons. This scene is performed with a strong comedy angle and so the action shouldn’t be too worrying but the dragons do swoop down and pick up sheep with their talons. The sheep are fairly unaware and none of the people seem too concerned but some children may get upset at the idea of cute animated sheep being snatched away by dragons. Similarly, when the dragons are retreating, we see one sheep being dropped out of shot, although this is in the distance and is not commented on by anybody.

In addition, later on some dragons are shown dropping things into a volcano-like structure (we don’t really see what they are holding) in order to feed a gargantuan dragon and we first see this creature as it launches up out of some mist to eat a small ‘dog’ like dragon in a quick and unexpected manner. Because it is swallowed whole the moment is over very fast but it may upset kids to see something so cute be eaten like this.

When Hiccup first finds the downed ‘Night Fury’ dragon he is determined to kill it. We have been told as an audience that all dragons are vicious and dangerous but the Night Fury appears tired and weak. Hiccup states that he needs to ‘cut out its heart and take it to Father’ and he raises a small knife in readiness to do this but hesitates and starts to doubt himself.

The dragons themselves come in all shapes and sizes. There is a lot of loving attention to detail in their varieties and although some are spikey and aggressive (the town generally treats them as a persistent nuisance), we feel the fear factor should not be too high. One dragon, named the ‘Fireworm’,  is able to set itself on fire. In the opening sequence and whilst ablaze it is seen to be climbing a building to attack someone. It is very large, gets a big close up shot and could be a little scary for young children. However, again, no-one is too threatened by it and the danger is quickly averted. A little later in the movie many Vikings set sail in search of the dragon nest. They sail into a huge bank of fog, and for a brief second, a flash of light reveals the silhouette of a large dragon. The shot then cuts back to the town and we do not see anything else. When we return to the boats they are heavily damaged but no-one is hurt.

‘Toothless’ becomes extremely loveable very quickly. It forms a deep bond with Hiccup and around an hour into the film, when Hiccup is danger, Toothless flies in to rescue him. However, the town is terrified by Toothless and immediately try to kill it. Several men grab it and shove its head to the ground, exposing the neck in readiness for an axe to cut off its head. This could be very upsetting for kids who have grown to love Toothless as for around 5 minutes it appears as if Toothless may be killed by a mob of scared and angry people. Hiccup is distraught at the situation and is powerless to help.

The climax of the film involves a battle with the gargantuan dragon mentioned above but although it is huge and scary, it is in keeping with the tone throughout so far and so if your child has been alright up to this point then they should be fine with this sequence as it has lots of exciting action. The aftermath features a 20 – 30 second moment whereby it is uncertain whether everyone survived and one character is very worried and upset. Once the situation is clarified, the potential emotional distress should be minimised

CAN I SEE A CLIP?

VERDICT

How To Train Your Dragon’ is a delightful heart warming kids movie that parents are bound to also enjoy. The twists and turns of the plot allow the story to seem a little bleak and hopeless at times before revealing the happy ending and so the film may not necessarily be appropriate for very little kids due to the emotive nature of these scenes. On the other hand it brings a well roundedness to the movie which should help appeal to slightly older kids. As this film is definitely aimed at a young audience, any concern about potential upset should be taken away as soon as the direction of the story is made clear. We feel that ‘How To Train Your Dragon’ should be appropriate for kids aged 6 and over although it may be advisable for an adult to be present for the first watch in case any reassurance is required during the possible distressing scene where Toothless is captured by the Vikings.

  • Violence: 2/5
  • Emotional Distress: 2/5
  • Fear Factor: 2/5
  • Sexual Content: 1/5 (the attraction of Hiccup to Astrid is very innocent and does not go beyond a few kisses on the cheek and one on the lips. When Hiccup is given a Viking helmet to wear by his father he is told that it was made out of his (deceased) mother’s breastplate)
  • Bad Language: 0/5
  • Dialogue: 2/5 (there is a lot of talk of killing dragons throughout which may upset once we learn they are not so dangerous. One sentence near the start states that a character ‘popped a dragon’s head clean off its shoulders’. Hiccup’s voiceover states that he wants to kill a dragon (at first) because this is the only way that he will be able to impress a girl he likes. Also, when Hiccup’s father is disappointed in him, he angrily says that he feels Hiccup is ‘not his son’)
  • Other notes: Deals with themes of realising your full potential, accepting your differences, realising that seemingly dangerous creatures may just need understanding and doing what is right when it is against the wishes of those who are close to you.

Words by Laura Record

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