Writer/director Dean DeBlois breathes fresh fire into the second chapter of this animated trilogy, returning to the mythological world of the heroic Viking Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless.
Picking up five years later, Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (voiced by Jay Baruchel), his girlfriend Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera) and the other graduates of the Berk Dragon Training Academy are soaring and swooping around the skies, showing off aerial acrobatics that could rival Harry Potter's Quidditch matches -- except these involve sheep and baskets. As the plot kicks in, Hiccup's aging father Stoick The Vast (voiced by Gerard Butler) is grooming his now-grown son to someday become chieftain of the Nordic clan.
Meanwhile, adventurous Hiccup encounters Eret (voiced by Kit Harington), a mercenary who traps dragons and forces them into servitude for his power-hungry boss, villainous Drago Bludvist (voiced by Djimon Hounsou). More significantly, there's the reclusive vigilante Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), Hiccup's long-lost-and-presumably-dead mother from the icy Arctic. She dwells in a vivid, vibrant, visually magnificent dragon sanctuary, filled with multi-colored winged reptiles, many of which she freed from captivity.
Based on the "How to Train Your Dragon" books by Cressida Cowell, Dean DeBois, working with production designer Pierre-Olivier Vincent, amplifies Hiccup's digital habitat while introducing new physical and emotional challenges which lead to character growth. The third and final episode of this highly successful franchise is expected in a couple of years.
FYI: Under the expert guidance of CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg, DreamWorks Animation is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Speaking on Entrepreneurial Leadership at a recent Milken Global Conference, Katzenberg said the future of distributing feature films will undergo a radical change within 10 years: A movie will be released and there will be 17 days, exactly three weekends, to generate 95 percent of the revenue for 98 percent of movies. On the 18th day, that movie will be available for download everywhere.
On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "How To Train Your Dragon 2" is an enchanting 8, flying high among this summer's blockbusters.