How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014)
Featuring the voice talents of Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, T.J. Miller, Djimon Hounsou, and Kristen Wiig
Directed by Dean DeBlois
***This film is currently streaming on Netflix***
By far, the How to Train Your Dragon franchise is Dreamworks Animation's best series of films they've ever created. From a studio that built itself on pop culture references and "Big Hollywood Star Voice Acting," the Dragon series eschews that to a certain degree -- or, at the very least, places a bigger emphasis on story. Much like its predecessor, Dragon 2 keeps the focus on now twentysomething Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) who, five years after the conclusion of the last film, has managed to keep his fellow village folk of Berk recognizing dragons' abilities to assist humans. With his partner in crime Toothless, Hiccup and his dragon friend fly around searching for other dragons in need of assistance which happens to bring Hiccup back into contact with his presumably dead mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) who was supposedly taken by dragons upon an invasion when Hiccup was merely an infant.
Dragon 2 attempts to explore the relationship between Hiccup and his long-lost mother and how this newfound connection affects those around him, particularly his father Stoick (Gerard Butler). These moments involving the newly reunited family are the film's most effective and are rendered quite nicely from an emotional perspective. When the film throws in a bad guy in Drago (Djimon Hounsou) who desires to utilize all dragons for their worst potentials possible in order to gain control of various Nordic lands, things falter a bit. However, and to the film's credit, the character of Drago is responsible for several of the film's most emotional moments so while the villain seemed a little too maniacal at times, this nastiness was put to great effect to forward the story.
Animation-wise, I must admit that I wasn't as wowed as Dragon 2's predecessor, but the film still boasts quality craftsmanship. I continue to be a little disenchanted with Jay Baruchel voicing Hiccup -- I still stand by the fact that I feel like the voice doesn't quite fit the character or the time period of the piece, but it's not detrimental to the film in any way. Nice turns from Blanchett and Butler utilize those "star voices" to great effect without drawing attention to their "star status" in any way.
The RyMickey Rating: B-