Today, I was very pleasantly surprised by "How to Train Your Dragon."
From the trailers, I had no desire to see it. The marketing team of DreamWorks had obviously taken the gross-out parts and the snarky dialogue and tried to condense them into a few clips to lure moviegoing tweens. I've got Disney Channel and Nickelodeon, thank you, I don't need to drive to a theatre and pay for more snarky.
But we had the time and a friend had highly recommended the movie, so I took my two older girls (with a PG rating, I don't like to take chances with my 5-year-old -- we've left so many scary/violent/foul-mouthed/toilet humor movies with a PG rating already; my 9- and 8-year-olds can handle more mature stuff by now).
What I loved about the movie, a classic "my parents don't understand me, but I've gotta prove myself to them" story set in a Viking village, were the quiet moments. Sure, there were explosions and crazy Viking-on-dragon violence, but there were also times when the protagonist Hiccup and the wounded "Night Fury" dragon (dubbed "Toothless") were quietly becoming acquainted. There were sweet moments when all you could hear was the dragon's breathing as Hiccup reached out a hand to pet him. I actually cried at the end; my kids will tell you that's not unusual, but I'm trying to prove a point: despite the fact that this was a cartoon, the writing was good and the story was believable enough to help me escape into the dreamlike world.
(Note: I have cried at other animated features... "Up" was like a 20-minute sob session sandwiched between gorgeously drawn scenes, and I've never gotten over the scene in "Toy Story 2" when the little girl grows up and dumps her beloved Jessie doll on the side of the road, set to a painfully sad song by Sarah MacLachlan.)
I have to tell you that there was a little girl sitting behind us and wailing during the explosive fighting scenes. So it's not a movie for little kids or those who can't handle intense sounds, lights and scary dragons (hundreds and hundreds that are more realistically drawn and far scarier than the wicked Maleficent dragon in "Sleeping Beauty"). But I'd say that most kids over the age of 8 -- and their mommies -- will love it!
Final note: if you cry during Hallmark commercials or are suffering from PMS, bring a hankie!