Saturday, May 15, 2010

Movie Review: 'How to Train Your Dragon'

By Marina DelVecchio

Title: How to Train Your Dragon
Genre: Animation/Fantasy/Family
Run Time: 98 min
MPAA Rating: PG
Director: Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders
Writer: Cressida Cowell (novel) and William Davis (screenplay)
Cast: Jay Baruchel (Hiccup) and Gerard Butler (Stoick)
Company: Dreamworks Animation
Recommended: Yes


Synopsis: In “How to Train Your Dragon,” we find ourselves among Vikings that are depicted as hard-core, scathing, and fearless. Among them is our hero, Hiccup, and the son of the Viking leader, Stoick. Hiccup is a rare kind of Viking for he is the opposite of everything the Vikings represent. He is small and scrawny, and cannot even lift a sword, let alone slay a dragon with it. Living his entire life as a misfit among these strong and sturdy Vikings, Hiccup discovers his talent, his nature, which is contrary to the Vikings with whom he lives. He discovers a love for the dragons he is supposed to hate, and that they are as scared of the Vikings as the Vikings are of them. He learns to calm the dragons, tame them into submission, and ride them into the clouds. As a dragon tamer, he earns the respect of everyone except his father, who is disappointed in having a son that is so different from the rest of them. Of course, there is a happy ending. In the end, his father acknowledges the boy’s valor and difference with pride, but not until after the boy has to take drastic measures to prove himself by saving both the dragons and the Vikings.




Review: The message that resonates for children viewers is that they should pursue their difference, their unique identity at any cost, even if it means going against parental consent and approval. This is Hiccup's conflict in this story of bravery. As long as he attempts to emulate his father and the rest of his Viking brethren, Hiccup continues to fall short: he can be like them. But when he follows his instincts, he discovers a self that is different from the masses of his culture; he is unlike them in strength and brawn, but he proves himself to be intelligent, intuitive, and accepting of the dragons he is required to fear and destroy. By seeing this movie, children witness a different kind of bravery that does not require physical strength as much as it begs for mental fortitude, determination, non-conformism, and pursuit of individuality. His strength comes in going against the norms of his culture and environment in search of his own identity. Any parent would be proud to have a child as this.


For adults, the message is quite different: let your children be who they are intended to be. Don't deny them their individuality or define who they are. When you look at your children, make sure it is not you that you see, because your children are not you. They are individual entities that have come from you, but who need the space and freedom to pursue their own identities, their own truths, their own unique selves. Don't project your needs, desires, or dreams onto them. You will be disappointed, and children are constantly vigilant of our disappointments.


There are more stories like these out there, like "Rudy," "October Sky," and "Billy Elliot" to name a few, but the running motif seems to be the same: the vehemence with which children have to fight to prove themselves worthy of so much more than is expected of them; of defending the value of their “difference” to their parents. We want what is best for our children, but what is best for them may not be what we think is best for them. We all want our kids to have better lives than the ones we had. Some of us may expect our kids to follow in our footsteps, or be as wise as we were, but the truth is that we need to take a step back and look at our kids, individually; we need to recognize and accept their difference. We have to take a hard, long look at them and see them, not see us when we were kids. We have to see their nature as independent of our own, and we must celebrate that nature even if it is different. Children shouldn’t have to fight so hard to be seen and acknowledged by their own parents, and yet they often do.

Copyright© 2010 by Marina DelVecchio. All Rights Reserved.

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