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Dragons continue delivering the second time around

The last time we saw Hiccup and Toothless, the pair had brought the Vikings of Berk and their dragon enemies together as one big, happy family in 2010’s “How to Train Your Dragon.”

The dynamic duo is back on the big screen again this weekend, again showing off the power of a boy and his dragon in DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless prepare for their next adventure. (Photo: DreamWorks Animation)

This time, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is on the cusp of taking over as Berk’s chief in place of his father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler). And while Berk is a totally different place than it was in the first film, Hiccup doesn’t view himself as a leader and is perfectly content flying around the kingdom with his best friend, exploring and charting new areas.

While on one of these journeys, Hiccup and Toothless encounter a group of dragon trappers led by Eret (Kit Harrington). While out capturing dragons for a dragon army to be commanded by Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou), Eret’s group has run into issues with rogue dragon rider, Valka (Cate Blanchett).

In order to protect Berk, his friends (voiced by America Ferrera, Jonah Hill and others) and family, Hiccup sets out with Eret to confront Drago and convince him that war is not the answer.

In terms of story, I don’t think “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is as quite strong as its predecessor. While it’s not as guilty as many other animated films, there are some moments of silliness that don’t fit or are completely unnecessary and take away from the flow of the story. However, they’re rare and not significant.

The only other “gripe” I’ve got with the entire production is that at times it seems to be a little dark and/or scary for younger children. When I was a child, the animated movies with the darkest moments (Bambi’s mom, “Fantasia,” etc.) were always the ones I didn’t like or had to get older to appreciate. But perhaps I was just too sensitive of a soul for such things.

But overall, “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is one of the better films I’ve seen in 2014. The 3D visuals are beautiful (and will likely remain that way in 2D), the voice performances are superb and the story (minus those previously-mentioned moments of silliness) is solid from start to finish and has some very family-friendly themes throughout.

While it’s not as good as its predecessor (and let’s face it, that would be a very difficult task), “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is very good.

On the surface it’s a story about a boy and his dragon that could be categorized as shallow or limited. But if you dig a little deeper it’s really a story about acceptance of yourself and of others, forgiveness, understanding and unconditional love.

When you take all of those underlying themes, wrap them up in a beautifully animated package and throw in some cheap/easy laughs, you’ve got what’s likely to be best (or at least first) family time at the theater this summer.

★★★★ of ★★★★★

© 2020 by Man Versus Movie

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