Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 2 never learns to tell a story

Dreamworks follows up a blockbuster with a safe, tepid cash-in.

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When the filmmakers at Dreamworks’ animation division gear up for the inevitable next How to Train Your Dragon installment (and it’s likely already underway), I have a suggestion.

Try telling a story.

I know you want your films to be blockbusters, and that achievement presumes a lot of "gee whiz" moments. But that doesn’t mean your movies have to play like one typical adventure/heart-rending/comedy sequence after another, on which the fate of everything depends.

You can see where this is going, so I'll cut to the compliments: How to Train Your Dragon 2 looks great. The flying sequences are a blast. Those cute bits of comedy going on between dragons in the background of a few scenes — nice touch. But even in its humor, it's familiar and easy.

The rest is all too much — too much “woo hoo!” Too much “c’mon buddy!” Too much everything. And that means not enough of the kind of storytelling that takes its time, that feels fresh, and that makes sense.

And sense is lacking in How to Train Your Dragon 2, which asks us to believe that a mother would abandon her family — including her infant son — because she thought she was a bad mom by being a pacifist about dragons. Huh? Of all the ways to explain someone's 20-year absence. HTTYD 2 is also disingenuous. It preaches a message of peace and understanding before giving in to brute force, so that the nominal bad guy gets his comeuppance by the hero dragon.

Speaking of that dragon: Dean DeBlois, the director of this and its predecessor, did so much better years ago with the charming Lilo and Stitch. With Toothless, who is clearly patterned on Stitch, he has a character that can provide warmth and humor. But the warmth and humor on display in HTTYD 2 feel like just another couple of safe, studio-approved ingredients on the way to making bank.

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