DreamWorks has rarely earned “A” for animation – especially when compared with the best of Pixar – but they did a great job with their 2010 dragons-versus-Vikings epic, How To Train Your Dragon. They continue to delight with the even more impressive sequel, which combines visual dazzle with great storytelling and zesty characters.
In Dragon 2, all those scaly beasties have gone from being misunderstood “enemies” to domesticated allies. And the movie’s hero, the gentle, dragon-wooing Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), is now 20 and on the cusp of manhood. But when his brave and stalwart dad (Gerard Butler) wants to retire as the village chief and asks Hiccup to take on the role, our rather spindly hero thinks he’s not up to the onerous challenge of leadership. He chooses to continue exploring the world while zipping through the sky atop Toothless, his fire-breathing dragon (who often acts just like a big, slobbery dog).
The plot darkens terribly with the arrival of Drago Bloodfist (Djimon Hounsou, Gladiator), a terrifying megalomaniac who controls dragons through fear – and wants to wipe out Hiccup’s village while capturing all their dragons for his own dire purposes. Drago and Hiccup make for intriguing, seemingly mismatched antagonists: malevolent warrior versus peace-loving optimist. And while the plot gives lots of scope for their conflict to evolve in interesting ways, there are other unrelated developments that add unexpected emotional resonance of the kind you rarely see in movies for children.
Visually the movie is consistently delightful, with bold colours, detailed backgrounds, lots of dizzying aerobatics, and inventive animation.
Some of the scenes are almost as exotic as Avatar, especially those set in an otherworldly sanctuary populated by hundreds of dragons as gorgeously hued as butterflies. And the obligatory comic relief comes in the form of two gawky young goofs who are both in love with the same babe (Kristen Wiig, Bridesmaids), who forcefully disdains them while foolishly lusting after a dragon poacher with a bad-boy attitude and bulging biceps.
Endorsing values of peace of harmony without getting preachy, Dragon 2 is a rollicking, high-hearted entertainment. Darkly violent battle scenes and an unexpected death may present challenges to young children, but this movie is very easy to recommend.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 ΗΗΗ 1/2
Stars Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, and Gerard Butler. Directed by Dean DeBois.
The great Mia Wasikowska (Jane Eyre) stars in the incredible true story of a young woman who walked solo through 1,700 miles of Australia’s trackless – and very perilous – Outback.
A beefed-up Dwayne Johnson – who knew he could get bigger? – stars as the muscular superstar of Greek mythology, in a story that follows him post-Labours as a no-longer-heroic mercenary in need of redemption. With Joseph Fiennes, Ian McShane, and John Hurt.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
In 2011, Rise of the Planet of the Apes proved to be a surprisingly smart reboot of the sci-fi series from long ago. This promising sequel chronicles the fall of mankind as a devastating virus kills off most Homo sapiens – thus setting the stage for an epic battle between smart apes and dumb humans.
Based on a graphic novel and set in a dystopic future where global warming has sparked a deadly ice age, this grim drama stars Tilda Swinton and Chris Evans (Captain America).
With the longest day of the year upon us and the sweet heat of summer heading our way, let’s talk radler. Created a century ago in Germany, radler is a thirst-quenching, half-and-half mix of beer and lemonade or something similarly citrusy. In B.C., the few available radlers – such as the one from Tree Brewing – use grapefruit juice, and the result delights. Incredibly tasty on a hot afternoon, the low alcohol content means you can quaff a few cans without fuzzing your brain. Cheers!