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Movie review: 'How to Train Your Dragon 2' falls short of the hype

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How to Train Your Dragon 2

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How to Train Your Dragon 2” is one of those movies that make you think, “Really? What happened?” when comparing it to its stellar predecessor. Maybe the hype for a sequel that fans have been waiting for for years grew too high, but the fact is that “How to Train Your Dragon 2” is just average entertainment.

Directed by Dean DuBlois, the animated film opens five years after the end of the last one. The Viking village of Berk is at peace, humans now allies with dragons after the actions of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his dragon Toothless. But being five years older means that Hiccup has some new responsibilities on his plate, namely that his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) wants him to take over as chief, while he just wants to explore new lands. The differences between Hiccup and his father come to a head when he and his girlfriend Astrid (America Ferrara) learn that a man called Drago (Djimon Hounsou) is collecting dragons to build an army.

On his way to try to reason with Drago, Hiccup is distracted by a startling discovery: that his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett), who was thought dead for many years, is still alive, spending her time caring for dragons—dragons that Drago wants to control for his own gain. The ensuing battle puts Hiccup and Toothless’ relationship to the test, as an Alpha dragon who can control all the other species emerges.

The movie starts off well enough, but gets lost in the second half. Several plot points that could have been beefed up quite a bit dramatically are left hanging weakly. Valka has basically no excuse for leaving her family, but everyone seems okay with it, while Drago’s big plot to take over the world comes out of nowhere, for no reason, and ends too easily. Everything, in fact, is resolved too conveniently, including the strain between Hiccup and Toothless. The whole previous film was spent building up their relationship and their characters, and it appears that the filmmakers struggled to find ways to take it further. The strongest emotional scenes of the movie are during the reunion of Stoick and his wife, although he also doesn’t seem to have a problem with the fact that she has been alive all this time.

There is some humor sprinkled throughout the film as well, but nothing that’s particularly notable. The crowning achievement of the movie is the animation, which is top notch. It’s almost worth it just to watch it for the detail of each individual dragon species, and the epic battle sequence is especially well animated and gorgeous to look at.

Unfortunately, looks aren’t everything. On the surface, it appears that Dreamworks Animation did everything right for his sequel, from setting it five years in the future to grow with its aged audience (it has been four years since the first movie was released) to enhancing the action scenes and adding more characters. But when it all comes together it doesn’t amount to the touching story of a boy and his dragon that we saw in the first film, perhaps because the film concentrates less on the two of them, and more on the larger scope of things

Runtime: 102 minutes. Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:

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