How To Train Your Dragon 2

Children’s animated movies have an easy way of capturing the attention of any naïve little one with catchy tunes, adorable characters, and goofy plots. But then there are animated movies such as “Frozen” (2013) and “The Lion King” (1994) that have a more serious, deeper story line. How to Train Your Dragon 2 falls right into that category.

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Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, and Jonah Hill are amongst many who lend their voice talents to this animated story of young man, Hiccup (Baruchel), and his best dragon friend, Toothless. Five years after the Vikings and the dragons called a truce, the island of Berk is in another serious danger after Hiccup discovers a new island with filled with mean dragon slayers. In a direct disobedience of his father, Stoick (Butler), Hiccup goes on a quest to find the enemies’ fearless leader, but he finds someone a little more delicate; his mother, Valka (Blanchett).

This movie holds a warm lesson for children who have lost their mommies or daddies, orphans with wondering holes in their hearts about their biological parents, or young people in single parent homes. The fictitious story makes those children gravitate to the film with experience and reality.

The movie keeps the love for dragons alive. The mythical creatures, magnified in 3D features, come in many different shapes, colors, and sizes for the second time around. No longer an enemy, the dragons were friendlier than the first movie and they ultimately turn out to be the heroes.

Dragons

If “Frozen” (2013) is the best animated movie of the new millennium, then How To Train Your Dragon 2 is coming in a close second, along with “Wreck It Ralph” (2012). All three movies possess the qualities of a timeless, classic animation: enchanting characters, mild humor, and life application. It’s a tedious task to involve all three conditions, but this sequel pulls it off.

4 Stars: How To Train Your Dragon 2 is a healthy balance between fact and fiction. Yes, dragons are fake. But, the key messages from the animated film is very real; a true friend will never leave your side, and that there’s true healing after losing a loved one.

The Nut Job

“I wanna lick your face!” – Precious the Pug (voice by Maya Rudolph)

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Open Road Films took its first stab at animated films with a story about an exiled squirrel with hopes of finding food for the winter in “The Nut Job.” Surly (voice by Will Arnett) and his trusty rat friend, Buddy (voice by Robert Tinkler) have to make a shaky deal with other park friends to steal nuts for the winter. The park animal alliance is led by Raccoon (voice by Liam Neeson), Andie ( voice by Katherine Heigl), and park hero, Grayson (voice by Brendan Fraser).

Minnie Riperton’s daughter, Maya Rudolph, is a breath of fresh air. She’s super cute, quirky and funny. And now proving her extreme versatility for she hit a home run as the adorable pet pug, Precious. Rudolph track record has been consistently humorous with movies like Bridesmaids (2011) and The Way, Way Back (2013). After Saturday Night Live’s recent diversity dilemma, I was really sad to see her go, but she is clearly making a name for herself aside from the NBC show.

“The Nut Job” is inferior in comparison to Disney’s Frozen. Walt Disney’s latest classic spent two non-consecutive weeks at the #1 spot in the box office and as of January 13th, the fairy tale racked in an estimated $317 million. While “The Nut Job” had a villain, a good guy, and a twist like “Frozen”, it lacked catchy tunes, glittery princesses, and a family feel.

The movie was average but a great opening mark for a new movie production company like Open Road. Children will enjoy the cuddly talking animals, while parents will take pleasure in the minor adult-like humor. But, what adults will quickly notice are the periodic moments of boredom, where the movie gets a little dry and you catch yourself dozing off. The Nut Job lacked the engaging excitement of “Frozen”.

If you are anything like my family though, you can use “The Nut Job” for what it is worth; an opportunity to get the kids out of the house. A warm movie theater, good company and overpriced food makes for a great Saturday outing.

On Saturday, January 11, 2014, the Movie Scene Queen hosted the Pittsburgh premiere of the Nut Job at AMC Waterfront 22. Hundreds of children and their parents filled the Homestead movie theater for the special screening. “I thought the movie was a nice, funny family movie that taught the kids a great lesson about working together as a team,” says Denisehia Crawford, 25, who attended the Pittsburgh premiere with her two little ones.

3 Little Charming, Animal Stars

The Nut Job Premiere
Nyier and Kyan Crawford attended the Nut Job’s Pittsburgh premiere at AMC Waterfront on Saturday, January 11, 2014.

Frozen

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Walt Disney Pictures and the creators of Wreck It Ralph bring forth Frozen, the story of two royal sisters who have to eventually work together to save the kingdom of Arendelle. Princess Anna (voiced by Kristen Bell) and her sister, soon to be Queen Elsa (voiced by Idina Menzel) overcomes the early death of their parents and being sheltered from the world. Now, as adults, they must preside over the land and save the people from the freezing temperatures cast by Queen Elsa’s uncontrollable powers.

Most movie critics have already chimed in to compare Frozen to other Disney classics such as Beauty & the Beast, Aladdin, and even Lion King. I would not go that far, however, Frozen was full of winter delight and catchy, family-friendly tunes. While Disney’s Planes recently fell short of greatness, Frozen can be placed into the Disney vault with its humor for all ages, musical wonders, and winter escapades.

The soundtrack features stuck-in-my-head songs like “Do You Want to Build a Snowman?” and “Let It Go.” Frozen seems to sample songs from all genres. And Taye Diggs’ wife, Idina Menzel uses her years on Broadway to contribute angelic sounds.

When I surveyed my two young ones, they were mesmerized by the special powers of Queen Elsa, her 3-D “ice castle”, and the idea of a “funny-talking snowman”, Olaf (voiced by Josh Gad). They were equally heart-broken when the royal family faced treason and betrayal. It was the same feeling I felt as a youngster after watching Lion King’s Scar kill his own brother. The consistent, generational memories that Disney creates with its movies is exactly what sets them apart from all other animated creators.

Reality set in quickly once the movie was over though. Walt Disney Pictures has yet to exhaust all of its resources to ensure that people of color are represented more frequently on the animated big screen. Disney’s only Black princess, Tiana, and the movie Princess and the Frog was a huge box office success, grossing nearly $267 million worldwide.

Yet prior to the movie, Disney only made one attempt to incorporate an African-American as a leading princess by making singer Brandy Norwood the 1997 Cinderella. (And I loved that made-for-tv movie) Surely, Disney can ensemble a team to pull off another great animated movie with a Princess of color. I’ll wait!

4 STARS: It would not be a bad idea to grab the family this Thanksgiving weekend and partake in a movie outing featuring Frozen. While it’s too soon for me to deem this movie a classic, Frozen surely holds all of the workings of Walt Disney’s magic.

Frozen is in movie theaters on November 27th.

Frozen Characters
Disney’s Frozen characters Princess Anna (left) and her sister, Queen Elsa (right) chatting with the Movie Scene Queen at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center on November 10, 2013

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