In the follow-up to the 2010 original, young Viking Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his seaside village have settled into a new normal where dragons are trusted companions—until a warlord (Djimon Hounsou) arrives, with designs on controlling all dragons. Hiccup also discovers that his mother (Cate Blanchett)—whom he’s always believed to be dead—is still alive, and the film finds surprisingly emotional material in this family reunion. But even more satisfying—along with the thrilling, swooping visuals—is the idea that there are different ways to be a leader, and that some choices, even heroic ones, have permanent, not always happy consequences. Perhaps there’s no way to avoid some of the more formulaic action elements of family blockbusters, yet it’s always a pleasant surprise when an institution like DreamWorks Animation decides that playing it safe isn’t the only option.
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