Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Time Magazine review of "...Dragon"

There is a good review of the Dreamworks release How To Train Your Dragon in the April 5th issue (which also breaks down the recent health care reform act). The reviewer, Richard Corliss, gives it a very positive review, going so far as to say that with this movie, Dreamworks gets to a level at times that is usually Pixar's territory, with a more serious and more ambitious work than most of their other animated features.

I don't know if I agree with that, after seeing UP! and RATATOUILLE and even WALL*E. There is deeper storytelling going on in any of them, I believe, than I saw with this movie. But I do accept that it is a cut above some of the other Dreamworks features, if not in the simple entertainment aspect, then in the depth of story area.

One interesting contrast between Pixar and Dreamworks that I never really picked up on (though others almost certainly have) is the observation that most of the Pixar films are "buddy" stories while most of the Dreamworks pictures are "workplace comedies about groups", and that these preferred plots "reflect their means of creation. Pixar writer-directors, working in a San Francisco suburb far from the seat of industry power, get lots of staff support but prsue their visions more or less on their own. DreamWorks movies, made mostly in the Hollywood suburb of Glendale, are team efforts." DreamWorks productions, says Corliss, aspire to entertain, not to create high art.

This movie is a little different, in that it really is not an ensemble, group comedy, but rather a movie about a boy and his dog, er, ah...dragon. Corliss points out that the creators, Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, also created the Lilo and Stitch film for Disney back in 2002, and with it a tale with similarities to ...Dragon, both being "kid-and-feral-pet" stories with a strong interspecies friendship. And the backgrounds and landscapes of this Nordic world (where Vikings talk with Mike Myers-like Scots accent) are also a cut above the usual DreamWorks scenery.

Corliss concludes by mentioning that with respect to this movie, "in its loftier moments, it might almost be called Pixarian." And while there is nothing in this movie to rival that opening sequence from UP!, I can sort of see where he's coming from


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