As opposed to "22 Jump Street", which makes fun of the fact that it is a sequel, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" takes itself very seriously --- as a sequel. Unfortunately, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is less about training dragons and more about dealing with abandonment issues --- and giving Cate Blanchett a sweet voice deal as Hiccup's (voiced by Jay Baruchel) mother, Valka.
During one of their frequent flyovers, Hiccup and Toothless discover a new land recently destroyed by dragon hunters who are in hot pursuit of new dragons for the evil Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). Meanwhile, back in Hiccup's homeland, his father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler) is anxious for Hiccup to take over the reins as chief.
To escape his father's wishes, and prove that he is, indeed, a dragon master, Hiccup goes in search of Drago, but ends up finding his long lost mother Valka who has been missing for 20 years. Attempting to bring everyone together, Hiccup incurs the wrath of Drago and his Alpha dragon, causing him to lose poor Toothless in the melee.
First, and foremost, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is way too long. It's also very frightening, especially for young children. Not only is the Alpha dragon really scary, Drago himself is extremely menacing. There are cringe-inducing battles and death --- way too much for the little ones.
But most importantly, the screenplay by Dean DeBlois, based on the book series by Cressida Cowell, is tedious and boring. Normally, I love animated films --- I loved the first "How to Train Your Dragon". But this movie is mired in lengthy oratories which come off as preachy and full of righteous indignation. Yes, we all need to learn to live together and accept one another for whom and what we are, but I would prefer to hear that in church on Sundays rather than in a movie theater. A little moral tutelage goes along way, but "How to Train Your Dragon 2" has it in spades.
Though David was enthralled with the animation and 3-D special effects, I was simply not impressed. And though there are a few truly endearing moments between Hiccup and Toothless, it's not enough for a family outing at the movies.
Opinion: Wait for DVD
Aside from some slow parts in the middle of this sequel, I found "How to Train Your Dragon 2" to be thoroughly enjoyable. The animation is superb, and the use of 3-D is as effective as any non-live action feature that has come before it.
The film is loaded with voice talents like Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, America Ferrera, and Djimon Hounsou. Jay Baruchel is terrific as the voice of Hiccup, the star of the movie, and the trainer/best buddy of Toothless, the cutest dragon this side of Berk.
This is a film about love, loss and the importance of loyalty. Aside from one young moviegoer at our screening who squealed at all the right times, indicating she "got it", I'm not sure that all kids under the age of eight will grasp the lessons here. However, I am reasonably certain that "Dragon 2" is a bit too scary for the littlest of moviegoers.
While on a quest to save hundreds of wild dragons from the clutches of the evil Viking Drago (voiced by Hounsou), Hiccup and his friends run into Alpha, a monstrous dragon under Drago's power who has the ability to "hypnotize" other dragons, including Toothless, to do Drago's bidding. At one point, when we first see Alpha, his gigantic visage takes up the entire surface of the movie screen. It's a rather startling image that may frighten toddlers, so parents beware.
There is one sequence in particular that I just loved involving Hiccup's long estranged parents. His mother Valka (voiced by Blanchett) and his father Stoick (voiced by Butler) are brought together after 20 years, and Stoick manages to recapture her heart in a delightful song and dance routine. It's a scene you don't always see these days in an animated adventure.
My only complaint is "Dragon 2" is about 10 minutes too long. Otherwise, despite Jeanne's misplaced misgivings, it's a joy to behold.
Opinion: See It Now!