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'How to Train Your Dragon 2' hits the mark visually and emotionally

Hiccup and Toothless are back in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2.
Hiccup and Toothless are back in HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2.
Dreamworks, with permission

How to Train Your Dragon 2


Release date: June 13, 2013

Written and directed by: Dean DeBlois

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, and Gerard Butler

You know the drill. An animated movie comes out, hits big with kids and adults, thus necessitating a sequel that is designed to capitalize on the popularity, but rarely captures the magic of said original. Thankfully, for all the parents who will no doubt get dragged out to the cinemas this weekend for the latest adventure featuring Hiccup and Toothless, "How to Train Your Dragon 2" far exceeds the expectations of an animated sequel and delivers an beautiful and touching follow up.

One of the things that stood out about the first flick was it's powerful message about the importance of the role of family in a child's life. The sequel continues that theme, picking up years after the first movie. Hiccup (voiced still by Jay Baruchel) is older, wiser, and still a master dragon trainer. He's now in line to take over for his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), as the leader of the vikings of Berk. He's not exactly up to the monumental task, which puts some distance between he and big poppa.

There is a real villain this time around. Against his father's wishes, Hiccup and his night fury dragon, Toothless, have continued to explore their land, charting out new areas to explore and look for dragons. They stumble on the menacing Drago (Djimon Hounsou), a disgraced viking who is building a dragon army that will unleash chaos on everyone.

Some of it is pretty frightening stuff. Parents may want to use a little caution with some younger kiddos. The story is a lot of fun. There is some great humor for both kids and adults and for the most part, it is a very engaging and entertaining film. But there is a lot more weight this time around, the story leaning a little more down a dark and violent path than you'd expect for most 3D animated kiddie flicks.

Family is once again at the heart of "How to Train Your Dragon 2". During his misadventures, Hiccup accidentally stumbles on his long lost and believed dead mother, voiced by the always perfect Cate Blanchett. But it's not all happiness now that the family has been reunited at long last. Writer and director Dean DeBlois keeps the same sense of wonderment and adventure, but takes the characters a difficult and emotional road.

The animation and the 3D are both top notch, making this a must-see on the big screen and worth the lil' bit extra for the 3D upgrade. As always the star of the show is Toothless, a character that thanks to incredible animation, is given a so much life and personality that it makes it even more painful to watch when he himself is put through the ringer. The action is incredible and there is a genuine sense of epic-ness that is missing from most bloated summer adventures.

"How to Train Your Dragon 2" is as beautiful visually as it is emotionally. There's plenty of jokes but there is also a darker side that is sure to hit home with kids and adults. The dragons and the action will dazzle the eye, but if story is what really counts, this hits the mark.