Presumably, if you've trained your dragon right the first time, it shouldn't have to be an ongoing thing. But all dragons, it turns out, can learn new tricks. In some ways the second entry in this animated franchise is inferior to the first, released in 2010: The plot is needlessly busy, and much of the action is more manic and indistinct. But How to Train Your Dragon 2 cuts deeper than the first picture -- it will be particularly resonant for anyone who has ever worked with or adopted rescue animals -- and there are a few sequences of cartoon grandeur. Best of all, Dragon 2 marks the return of one of the most beautifully designed characters in modern animation, perhaps in all of animation, period: Toothless the dragon is back with a silent roar.
At the end of the first film, young Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his good-guy dragon steed, Toothless, vanquished the mighty bad-guy dragon that was threatening the ancient Viking village of Berk. Hiccup lost a leg in the process, but as we see at the beginning of Dragon 2, he's more fearless than ever.
Director Dean DeBlois keeps the story moving efficiently enough, and despite the fact that the film has too many structural arms and legs wiggle-wagging in all the wrong places, there are some finely tuned dramatic moments, including a tragic twist that might be too intense for really little kids. (Heck, it was almost too intense for me.) The numerous flying scenes, in which cartoon humans perch on the backs of their airborne companions, are perfectly enjoyable, especially in 3D