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'How To Train Your Dragon 2' actually expands and improves upon the original

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

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It is full blown sequel season at your local multiplex and while it is a rare occurrence, every once in a while, the sequel outshines the original. "How To Train Your Dragon 2" manages to build upon the charm of the original and tell and relevant and meaningful story that will impart great life lessons to the younger crowd and not make the parents wish that they had brought a book.

Five years have passed since Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless successfully united Dragons and Vikings on the island of Berk. While Astrid (America Ferrera) Snoutlout (Jonah Hill) and the rest of the gang are challenging each other to dragon races (the island's new favorite contact sport), the now inseparable pair journey through the skies, charting unmapped territories and exploring new worlds. When one of their adventures leads to the discovery of a secret ice cave that is home to hundreds of new wild dragons and the mysterious Dragon Rider, the two friends find themselves at the center of a battle to protect the peace. Now, Hiccup and Toothless must unite to stand up for what they believe while recognizing that only together do they have the power to change the future of both men and dragons.

Rarely does a film get to be thematically satisfying as well as emotionally satisfying and "How To Train Your Dragon 2" is a just a full story that preaches about the power of the family unit no matter what the form as it soars through the skies with a ridiculous amount of ease.

Taking the directing reigns that he shared on the first film with Chris Sanders, I marvelled at the level of confidence and ease that Dean DeBlois showed not only in direction but in the script as well. While there were admittedly a few too many shots in the clouds simply for the sake of having them, it was a story that had a nice, natural progression to it all and it wasn't trying to directly ape the formula from the first film, it was its own story.

It moved at a smooth and efficient pace balancing the action with some genuine character development and while it has a couple of moments that might be scary for the very young ones, that gets out weighed as it presents the children's crowd with a number of real world issues to deal with. The film presents them in an even handed, almost matter of fact type fashion and it doesn't play like something that is talking down to its audience. The jokes are solid and it all feels incredibly genuine as these life lessons, social values and action are all brought to life thanks to an excellent ensemble cast.

Jay Baruchel steps back into Hiccup was absolute ease as he wears the weight of the world on his shoulders dealing with the stresses of entering man hood and having to take responsibility not only for himself but for the entire town. Gerard Butler and Colin Ferguson add their usual colour while America Ferrera plays a slightly large role as she leads their gang in defense of their home but everyone gets their moment to shine. Cate Blanchett, Kit Harrington and Djmon Hounsou join this universe with great results as these characters branch out to discover the entire universe outside of their island of Berk.

A rare bird, "How To Train Your Dragon 2" just might be one of the best animated sequels of all time as it doesn't just give us a variation on a crowd pleasing theme but instead gives a brand new adventure that allows these characters to grow up right along with the audience.

5 out of 5 stars.

"How To Train Your Dragon 2" is now playing in theatres everywhere.

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