Release Date: June 13, 2014
Rating: PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor
Genre: Comedy
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Dean DeBlois
Cast: Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington

This review contains discussion of a key plot development that could be considered a spoiler but which is integral to the film's message about family and has already been revealed in some trailers.

Earlier this year, The Lego Movie gave audiences more wit and humor than expected from a corporate movie based on a popular toy. That film was not only funny, but also had a heartwarming father-son story at its heart.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 comes with its own set of expectations—and potential pitfalls. A follow-up to the wildly successful 2010 film from Dreamworks Animation, the movie could have been another crass, commercial sequel, more interested in making a quick buck off the positive memories of the original than in telling an engaging story that could stand on its own.

How to Train Your Dragon 2 doesn't offer the same measure of surprise as did the original, but it has strengths of its own that are different from its predecessor. The first film told the story of how the Viking hero, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel, RoboCop), and his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler, Machine Gun Preacher), mended their relationship in time to save their island, Berk, and live in harmony with fire-breathing dragons, including Hiccup’s beloved dragon, Toothless. Once the credits rolled for that film, there was only one way for the essentially domesticated dragons to go in a sequel—back toward fire-breathing fury. And that’s where we find many of the dragons in How to Train Your Dragon 2, due to the efforts of the new film’s villain, Drago (Djimon Hounsou, Baggage Claim), who turns all dragons into nasty beasts so that he can spread his particular brand of menace.

But How to Train Your Dragon 2 is at its strongest when it fills in the missing piece of Hiccup’s family background, showing how regret and apologies can bring inner restoration, even when war between rival territories rages outwardly.

The land of Berk is at peace as the sequel opens, its inhabitants gathering for regular "dragon races" in which humans ride the flying beasts for the entertainment of others. All is cheery and fun until a nearby tribe, led by Eret (Kit Harington), vows to steal the dragons from Berk and hand them over to the evil Drago.

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As Hiccup tries to fend off Drago, he meets the Dragon Hunter, who leads him to a refuge for peaceful dragons of all types, unlike the dragons under Drago's control. The film's message is encapsulated in the Dragon Hunter’s explanation of why some dragons are cruel and others kind: "Good dragons under the control of bad people do bad things."