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Not to be mistaken for the Dreamworks film How to Train Your Dragon franchise, here is a reasonably entertaining German family animation based on the 1997 bestseller by children’s author Cornelia Funke. It’s a great-looking film, energetically voiced in English by an A-team of British actors, but seriously let down by unexciting storytelling. Little children, though, may connect to the environmental message. Once upon a time, dragons and humans coexisted in harmony until humans hunted dragons close to extinction. Now the dragons live hidden deep in the rainforest, but deforestation is bringing their old foe ever closer.
Among the dragons is young Firedrake (voiced by Thomas Brodie-Sangster), who has an embarrassing problem: he can’t breathe fire. Whenever he tries, only little fart-puffs of smoke come out. To prove his worth, he sets off to find a mythical utopia in the Himalayas, a place where dragons are said to live in peace and safety. Firedrake’s sidekick is feisty chipmunk Sorrell (Felicity Jones), and the pair set off on a predictable quest to find the mythical rim.
Not far behind them is villain Nettlebrand, a manmade metal dragon (wonderfully voiced by Patrick Stewart with a sneer of superiority). En route they pick up homeless human teenager Ben (Freddie Highmore), who pretends to be a dragon rider. And here, jarringly, the film-makers drop in a winking reference to their rival franchise: when Firedrake crash-lands into the human city, there is the premiere of film called How to Tame Your Dragon. This movie doesn’t match the first couple of Train Your Dragon films for imagination. Still, it’s got a gag that would never make it into a Hollywood family movie: the first time the kid Ben meets Firedrake, he peers underneath the dragon and asks bemusedly: “You are a male dragon, aren’t you?”
• Released on 12 February on Sky Cinema.
Source: The Guardian
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