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'Dragon' the whisperer, too

Published June 24. 2014 04:00PM

The animated feature sequel, "How To Train Your Dragon 2" (HTTYD2), could have been subtitled "The Dragon Whisperer."

Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the lead Dragon Rider, cajoles his charge, Toothless (Randy Thom) back to the fold.

The challenge this time around in "HTTYD2" is that of Drago (voiced by Djimon Hounsou), the evil overlord of the dragons. He controls the dragons to control humans.

Hiccup must overcome the challenge to rally the Vikings and their dragons to ensure his role as heir-apparent and become chief of the Vikings on the island of Berk.

Speaking of "heir," the hair renderings in "HTTYD2" are amazing, none more so than on the huge ginger beard of Hiccup's dad. Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler). The animation throughout is superb. Hiccup's leather Viking outfit, and his girlfriend Astrid's fur-covered outfit, replete with mukluk-style boots, are very trendy.

Fashionista observations aside, "HTTYD2" has gorgeous artwork, from huge, expressive eyes and facile facial expressions of the characters, to colorful and imaginative dragons, to detailed buildings, ships, landscape, sea and sky.

That's why, though the movie was seen in the 2D format for this review, particular scenes, including memory flashbacks and dragon-flying (of which, to quote a cliché, there is a "veritable plethora"), might be worth the added ticket cost to see the movie in the 3D and-or Imax format.

"HTTYD2" also can be recommended on the basis of story, plot and pace. Director Dean DeBlois (Oscar-nominated writer-director, "How To Train Your Dragon," 2010, and "Lilo & Stitch," 2002) judiciously mixes elements of humor ("Stop being so stoic, Stoick.") amidst the action scenes, effectively uses close-ups of main characters and lingers on the characters in scenes where character response is important. Otherwise, the movie flies along on dragon wings.

"HTTYD2" is based on the book series by Cressida Cowell.

The music by John Powell ("How To Train Your Dragon") has lots of soaring choral work, which enhances the visuals' majesty.

Jay Baruchel's vocal work for Hiccup at first seems a bit underplayed, but his approach works well in terms of the character's timidity.

Cate Blanchett invigorates the character of Valka. America Ferrera as Astrid is compelling.

In supporting voice character roles are Jonah Hill (Snotlout), Kristin Wiig (Ruffnut) and Craig Ferguson (Gobber).

An interesting aspect of the storyline is that Hiccup has an artificial leg. It's positive to see a person with a disability in a heroic leading role.

"HTTYD2" is among the few movies of the summer 2014 blockbuster season so far that can be embraced by nearly the entire family. Children should enjoy the human characters and love the dragon characters. And there's a lot of fun for teens, young adults, parents and guardians.

Get ready. "How To Train Your Dragon 3" has been announced for 2016.

"How To Train Your Dragon 2," MPAA Rated PG (Parental Guidance Suggested. Some Material May Not Be Suitable For Children.) for adventure action and some mild rude humor; Genre: Animation, Action, Adventure, Comedy, Family, Fantasy; Run time: 1 hr., 42 min.; Distributed by DreamWorks-Twentieth Century Fox.

Credit Readers Anonymous: The 20th anniversary of DreamWorks Animation is noted at the beginning of "How To Train Your Dragon 2."

Box Office, June 20: It continues to be the summer of sequels, with "Think Like A Man Too" opening at No. 1, with $30 million, pushing "22 Jump Street" from its No. 1 perch to No. 2, $29 million, $111.4 million, two weeks; with "How To Train Your Dragon 2," breathing hot on its heels, dropping from No. 2 to No. 3, $25.3 million, $95.1 million, two weeks; with "Jersey Boys" opening out of the money, at No. 4, with $13.5 million, one week.

5. "Maleficent," $13 million, $185.9 million, four weeks; 6. "Edge Of Tomorrow," $10.3 million, $74.5 million, three weeks; 7. "The Fault In Our Stars," $8.6 million, $98.7 million, three weeks; 8. "X-Men: Days of Future Past," $6.2 million, $216.7 million, five weeks; 9. "Chef," $1.8 million, $16.9 million, seven weeks; 10. "Godzilla," $1.8 million, $194.9 million, six weeks

Unreel, June 27:

"Transformers: Age of Extinction." PG-13: A car mechanic's discovery engenders the ire of the Autobots, Decepticons and a government official. Michael Bay is back to direct. Mark Wahlberg, Nicola Peltz and Stanley Tucci star in the science-fiction action film.

"Begin Again," R: A music-business executive and a young singer-songwriter collaborate. Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo, Adam Levine, Hailee Steinfeld, Rob Morrow, Ceelo Green and Mos Def star in the romantic comedy.

"Snowpiercer," R: In a world where a global-warming experiment has killed life on the planet, those on the Snowpiercer, a train traversing the globe, survive. Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt and Octavia Spencer star in the science-fiction action film.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site,; the Times-News web site,; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.

Four Popcorn Boxes out of Five Popcorn Boxes

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