By Jonathan Decker (Family therapist, film critic)
Now that’s more like it! Last July, after I heralded Inception and Toy Story 3 as rescuing 2010 moviegoers from a year otherwise bereft of great storytelling, I received an email from a DreamWorks animator pointing me in the direction of How to Train Your Dragon. Word of mouth had been positive, but I had yet to check it out. Dreamworks Animation (Shrek, Over the Hedge, Monsters vs. Aliens) is known for targeting the funny bone of children and adults alike, but with the exception of Kung-Fu Panda, making films with heart and a spirit of adventure to match the humor hasn’t seemed to be their priority.
With How to Train Your Dragon, however, Dreamworks has raised their standard, making the race for Best Animated Feature at this year’s Oscars much more interesting. Combining truly stunning visuals with well-rounded characters, Dragon doesn’t insult the intelligence of young viewers. It is moving and uplifting, thrilling and funny, and uses its fantasy story to explore profound themes of prejudice, searching for personal identity, and longing for acceptance by a parent. If this sounds heavy, don’t worry: you’ll have a great time, and the action is pretty terrific. Listen for a great turn by Gerard Butler as a Viking father.
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Jonathan Decker is the clinical director of Your Family Expert. He is a licensed marriage and family therapist, husband, and father of five. Jonathan earned a masters degree in family therapy from Auburn University as well as a bachelor's degree in clinical psychology from Brigham Young University. He is an actor, author, and television personality.