How to Train Your Dragon
How To Train Your Dragon kicks off the 2010 animation film docket in glorious fashion. The plot is well-worn, but dressed up in a fun way with beautiful visuals and colourful characters.
Jay Baruchel voices Hiccup, a young Viking who doesn’t quite fit in with the rest, which means he doesn’t want to fight dragons, something the tribe has done for generations. This earns him the frustration and disdain from friends and family, including his Chief father, Stoick (Gerard Butler). That all changes when he captures and befriends one of fiercest dragons, and learns that the two aren’t all that different.
Dreamworks has this habit of tossing stars at a voice cast and hoping the name recognition will drive people to the flick. It’s a deal that’s done them well so far and they’ve been able to turn out some decent flicks with that model. But this is the first one featuring no A-listers, and the driving force is the story and the animation. And I for one was thoroughly impressed.
Dreamworks picked the right people for the cast. Baruchel brings the right amount of heart and uncertainty to the role, that you really get behind and feel for Hiccup. And more than the father/son dynamic of the story, which is about as cliché as it gets, the owner/pet best friend dynamic of Hiccup and the dragon Toothless is mind-blowing. He pulls you into the character relationship. I think anyone more recognizable would have been distracting int he role.
The main thing you’ll take away is the beautiful animation work on this. It is simply amazing. This film was designed to be in 3D, so they went to painstaking detail to create an entire world to fully immerse yourself in. The scenery is breathtaking, and when Hiccup first takes flight around the islands of Northern Europe, it a sight to behold.
Kids are going to enjoy this. But more so, audiences of all ages are going to enjoy it. It’s simple enough that kids can grasp the story, but leaves out the wink and nod references for parents, and focuses on just telling a wonderful story against some great animation.
Definitely check this one out, I really dug it. And see it in 3D
Hot Tub Time Machine
The R-rated comedy is back in vogue, and filmmaker Steven Pink brings it back two-fold by doing a throwback to the 80s by time travelling to the 80s in this romp that delivers on the laughs and will keep you entertained the whole way through.
Adam, Nick and Lou (John Cusack, Craig Robinson and Rob Corddry, respectively) are three friends who have grown unhappy with their lives. Adam’s girlfriend just left him, Nick found out his wife cheated on him, and Lou is an all around screw up who just tried to kill himself. To lift their spirits, they pack up and head to a ski resort they frequented when they were younger and wilder and felt the whole world was ahead of them. With Adam’s nerdy 23-year-old nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) in tow, they plan for another wild weekend, only to be disappointed by the state of disrepair and desolation the resort has become since their last visit. All that changes when the eponymous hot tube transports them back to their 1986 hey days, offering them a chance to try it again, see if they can make the right choices this time.
If the film feels like The Hangover meets Back to the Future, you’re right. It is. And it doesn’t come nearly as close to the superb quality of either. But it combines the best parts of the two and works it into something that is watchable, entertaining, and, at times, thought-provoking. It is by no means a veiled philosophical think piece, and takes liberties with the science of time travel. But it’s a lot of fun.
Cusack has long been one of my favourites, going back to his teen flick days in the ’80s and coming into off-beat leading man status in the ’90s and ’00s. Being engaging by way of distraught comes so easy to him, you can always relate to the perils of his character. His “every-man” appeal is what sells it. Robinson and Corddry have cemented themselves as solid supporters in comedy flicks, and bring the funny, even stealing scenes, in which they appear. Even Duke is great as the straight man of the group trying to deal with being a fish out of water as a kid trapped in a time before he was born.
Kids of the ’80s, and anyone who went through it as a young person, will appreciate the references and gags, from Poison, to Alf, to Red Dawn, to the whole ski resort setting (a common motif of B teen flicks of the era). The best comes in the form of Crispin Glover, George McFly himself who plays both the older and younger versions of himself, just as he did in Back to the Future.
Does it crib from other, better films? Yes. Is it still hilarious? Yes. Will you have an enjoyable time at this movie? If you like the ’80s, laughs (both cheap and earned), a good time travel saga, and a study of your life, then yeah. It won’t have a lasting pop culture imprint, but it’s still good just the same.