Overview (Spoilers Below):
It’s time for Snoggletog on the Isle of Berk, but not everything is warm and cheery. Vikings and dragons have been living apart for years now, and the younger members of the tribe are beginning to resort to the fearful mindsets of the past, regarding the giant monsters with suspicion and violence.
Hiccup plans to put on a grand holiday pageant with help from Gobber in order to teach the kids and remind the villagers about the bond formed between humans and dragons. It doesn’t exactly go as planned. In fact, it ends in fiery chaos. But Toothless shows up just in time to save the day, and the play goes off a big success. Later on, Hiccup and family return home to find that the dragons have accepted their gift of snacks.
How to Train Your Dragon is a pretty successful franchise that’s spawned a number of films. And now I guess it’s time for a holiday special? It’s a simple recipe that’s told without much panache: Hiccup has good intentions but everything goes horribly wrong until the dragons step in to save the day. There is some humor and a mild dose of holiday cheer, but unless you’re a big fan of the series, there’s no reason to seek this out when there are much better holiday-themed specials you could be watching this season.
The overall storyline was logical and made for a compelling problem. Hiccup and Astrid love dragons, sure, but now that their kids are being raised without the great beasts around, how will they come to regard dragons: as fast friends or fiery fiends? Zephyr, in particular, is against the idea of dragons, and it’s not hard to see why. With their massive size, sharp claws, and long history of removing limbs from Vikings, it could be argued that she’s seeing clearly. But without knowing any dragons personally, it’s an uninformed opinion that Hiccup seeks to correct.
That leads us to the play. The episode starts to sag in the middle, as we get plenty of scenes where they prepare the festivities. Gobber is your typical melodramatic gruff cartoon guy, and not much of his humor was very funny. These scenes are interspersed with moments in the dragon’s home, where Toothless tells his family about humans much like Hiccup is telling about the dragons. His three dragon children decide to fly and visit the human settlement. They’re cute, cat-like creatures, but nothing really comes of their visit until Toothless himself shows up to retrieve them and ends up saving Hiccup from falling off a cliff?
There were a few fun moments to be found, like Hiccup’s theme of complaining about his portrayal in the play: “I touched a dragon. That’s hardcore!” Astrid’s line about ‘Black Plague Friday’ is funny because it’s kinda true: “Everyone’s just shopping and coughing.” When Hiccup’s costume starts spewing blue flames, Gobber’s panicked: “Why would you give it that functionality?” had me laughing. Also, his confidence in his scriptwriting is legendary: “It’s just a first draft, but I’m gonna be honest: it’s brilliant!” Quick question: Why does Nuffink have such a heavy accent while Zephyr sounds like a typical American tween?
How to Train Your Dragon: Homecoming doesn’t break any new ground or talk about the holidays in a unique way, but it’s a passable way to spend twenty minutes if you’re a fan of the franchise and want to entertain your kids this holiday season. And hey, at least it ends with a timeless moral message: that those we love are never far away when we keep their memories in our hearts.