Except for one fairly major asterisk, this is a school holidays' winner: a charming, inventive romp complete with the cutest dragons you ever did see.
It boasts a brilliantly inventive scenario not dulled by the production of a second instalment, nicely paced plotting, exhilarating action scenes, and a couple of very sympathetic and complex central characters. While the under-fives will find it a touch long, the six to twelve set will be fully engaged.
The very clever 2010 original told the story of a isolated Viking island where the locals learn to stop warring with dragons and instead co-exist with them. Writer-director Dean De Blois' second episode (a third is due in 2016) explores how the world changes for the Vikings now they've learnt to ride the dragons. Their horizons keep expanding thanks to the adventurous Hiccup, son of characternym leader Stoick (Gerard Butler) who keeps discovering new lands. This brings good - he finds his long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett) - but he also learns of an impending attack from an enslaved dragon army led by the notorious Drago Bludvist (Djimon Hounsou).
Here comes the asterisk. Perhaps it's the bleeding-heart liberal in me, but my heart sank when Drago was finally unveiled: ringlets, hook nose, swarthy skin, foreign accent. Of course a race of Vikings are going to be lily-white blondes but, once again, the only other "other" character was the bad guy.
To me, it was the shifty Jew of ancient anti-Semitism returning unwanted in 2014. This casual racism blights an otherwise admirable kids' film.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (PG)
- Sunday Star Times