THE out-of-nowhere smash “How to Train Your Dragon” was one of the first movies to break the Pixar monopoly on first-rate animation.
Still, we know what franchising does to animated movies, so we half-expected this newly minted profit center to come down with a case of sequel-itis.
Cynical critics everywhere readied their I’m-so-bored-with-this-series puns – they should have called this “How to Drain Your Flagon, etc.”
Well surprise, surprise – “Dragon 2,” is actually pretty good. It has the hallmarks that made the first movie such fun – it’s fast-moving, it’s funny, and it has some inventive, eye-popping animated sequences.
Example: Dragon-riding hero Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is riding his winged beast through thickened clouds when the shark-fin ridges of another creature part the vapor nearby. The noise of the movie drops away and all we hear is the whistling winds of high-altitude flying. Another dragon emerges, another rider, with a garish fright mask.
Who is that masked man?
Is he even a man?
No, actually. It’s a character voiced by Cate Blanchett, who fills in gaps about Hiccup’s past, and brings to focus the on-going themes about human/dragon interaction.
The original was a simple story about fear of the unknown. Here, a more complicated plot allows the movie to grapple with environmental ideas – Blanchett’s character functions as a kind of dragon Jane Goodall, an expert on dragons raised in the wild. Djimon Hounsou provides the fearsome voice of Drago (can you tell he’s a bad guy?), a fellow whose coercive power over dragons is inverse to Hiccup’s example of cooperation and mutual benefit.
The “Dragon” series, though, never stops to ponder ideas for very long. It’s made with a mind to its preteen core audience, and aims to be fast and funny above all.
Having said that, parents should know that a prominent character does perish in the movie, and it comes by its PG rating honestly.
Read more at http://www.philly.com/philly/entertainment/20140613__Dragon_2__is_a_worthy_sequel.html#MUJSOK7QxZT1WMGE.99