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'How to Train Your Dragon 2' soars

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

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Grander and with more dragon-packed goodness, DreamWorks’ new computer-animated spectacular, “How to Train Your Dragon 2,” brings back the adventures of Hiccup and Toothless five years after we last saw them.

Slightly stubble-bearded Hiccup (still voiced by the always slightly pubescent-sounding Jay Baruchel) is now 20 and has to contend with his father’s (Gerard Butler as Stoick) repeated desire to train his son in the ways of leadership for the Viking village of Berk. Although Berk has made peace with the dragons, and each villager seems to have adopted a loving “pet” dragon, Stoick wants Hiccup to focus on eventually assuming the responsibility of leadership. Yet, Hiccup is, instead, entranced by the wanderlust of finding new, distant lands on the back of his domesticated Night Fury named Toothless.

Avoiding mundane daily village tasks, Hiccup repeatedly takes to the sky aboard Toothless, charting new lands on his homemade map, until our favorite young dragon and rider are unexpectedly entangled in the nets of dragon traders, led by Eret (Kit Harington of “Game of Thrones” fame). Hiccup and Toothless escape but find out about the impending threat of Drago (Djimon Hounsou), a dragon collector who will stop at nothing to rule all dragons. In searching for Drago, Hiccup also comes across Valka (Cate Blanchett), a mysterious protector of the dragons, who once knew Hiccup many years ago. Together, Hiccup, Stoick, Valka, and all Hiccup’s friends from Berk (including sometime girlfriend, Astrid, voiced by America Ferrera) seek to protect their way of life, including the freedom of their dragon friends, from the soulless, violent Drago.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is a darker, more emotionally touching story than its predecessor, emphasizing the difficulties faced when growing from adolescence into adulthood. Although there are moments of levity as well as visually exhilarating scenes of unbridled exploration aboard the wings of dragons, “Dragon 2’s” beauty is in its clear emphasis on the importance of maturity, family bonds, and peaceful co-existence.

Emotional growth abounds throughout the film. Toothless and Hiccup have almost become one in their deep trust and unending protection of each other. And, indeed, along the way, Hiccup has to surmount grave challenges and a reluctant rise to adulthood, facing a version of the less-than-optimal circumstances that we all must confront in maturity. Even further expanding the emotional heart of the film is Hiccup’s father, Stoick. The beautiful moment when Stoick sees Valka is as touching as any couple's scene since Carl and Ellie in Pixar’s “Up.”

Unfortunately, the film’s villain, Drago, is the toothless one. Painted as evil, Drago is initially built up by reputation, but he is a let down when finally revealed. Although Drago may be a bit scary for the littles in the audience, he is, in essence, sort of a darker version of a “Scooby Doo”- caliber villain of limited influence.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is a worthy successor to the original, although the dramatic, emotional storyline may cause the youngest viewers to be a bit antsy. “Dragon 2” is a fine film best suited for and enjoyed by the 5+ crowd and their families. "How to Train Your Dragon 2" is rated 4 of 5 stars.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” is rated PG for “adventure action and some mild rude humor.”

When it’s too hot to be outside this summer, check out all my new film reviews! Follow me for all the latest on Facebook at “San Antonio Movie Examiner” or on Twitter @christinephd. See you at the movies!

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