In the wide world of kids’ movie sequels, there’s a series that’s captured my heart—and the heart of my family—hook, line, and flaming sword…
Right out of the gate, I loved How to Train Your Dragon. I didn’t realize it was a book series, or else my interest would have been piqued even more. But being a family that leans Pixar, I really wasn’t anticipating such a smart, funny, touching movie that spoke so much to me. It’s not just because there’s dragons, though that’s a huge bonus. And it’s not just because it’s a medieval Norse-influenced setting, though that’s a big plus, too. When it comes down to it, it’s the heart of the movie that really gets to me. It’s about being different, and unexpected, and not fitting in, and not just championing on in spite of it—changing the world around you, and the perceptions of others, because of it.
You are probably familiar with Hiccup and Berk by now, the famed dragon tamer and his dragon-friendly island somewhere vaguely maybe near Sweden or Norway. The first movie takes his journey as a skinny, nerdy, totally different kid who’s supposed to be the next chief of his village but can’t seem to get anything right, to a beautiful hero story about friendship, family, and trust.
Yeah, it’s a lot. But it’s a lot of amazing, too.
As much as I loved the first movie, I wasn’t necessarily optimistic that the second could hold up to it. I mean, I’m an admitted sequel nerd (i.e., rather than rallying against remakes and sequels, I find the whole business to be rather fascinating, even when it’s terrible), but it’s hard to hold up to an original that just felt so… so very original.
“Mom, why are you crying?”
It’s the indignant peal of my son as we get about 4/5ths of the way into the movie. I’m not going to spoil away. If you’re like our family, you’ve got to depend on places like Netflix to get these titles, because… well, life. Plus, our son is high-functioning autistic. And he likes to scream and shout at movies, sit around in his underwear, and stalk around while we’re watching. These things are generally shunned by mainstream moviegoers.
I used to make fun of my mother. It’s easy to make fun of moms and their sometimes weepy tendencies. I never could understand what made her cry at Folgers commercials.
But then I had kids. And life got so much more wonderful and so much harder than it had ever been. And sometimes I still feel like a little kid from Berk who didn’t fit in; and sometimes I see that kid in my own son, who just isn’t cut from the same cloth as everyone. Plus, these kids—animated or not—are growing up. Becoming people. Growing facial hair. And oh, the feels.
I think it’s important that my kids see me cry when things move me. It’s important for me to explain to them why, too.
If you haven’t checked out the sequel to How to Train Your Dragon, I highly recommend it. But it’s not for the soft of spirit, or even the mildly soft (my husband definitely teared up, too). It’s one of the best, most original family movies out there, filled with dragons and whimsy, but also tempered with so much heart.
Natania is part of the Netflix Stream Team.