Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless encounter a fellow dragon and its rider in "How to Train Your Dragon 2." The movie is a sequel to the 2010 cartoon about a group of Vikings and their experiences with the flying creatures.

20th Century Fox/courtesy

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and Toothless encounter a fellow dragon and its rider in "How to Train Your Dragon 2." The movie is a sequel to the 2010 cartoon about a group of Vikings and their experiences with the flying creatures.

The Bock’s Office: ‘Dragon’ franchise still has the flame

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Hulking creatures with fangs, horns, claws and plenty more hazards on their bodies may sound frightening, but “How to Train Your Dragon 2” shows us they’re all a bunch of softies if you know how to treat them right.

If you go

“How to Train Your Dragon 2,” rated PG

Rating: 3.5 out of 4 stars

Running time: 102 minutes

Starring the voices of: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson and Cate Blanchett

Now playing at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas and Craig’s West Theatre.

Andy Bockelman

Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press. Contact him at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com.

Find more columns by Bockelman here.

The village of Berk is a lot different from how it used to be. Where previously, its Viking residents lived in fear and hatred of the dragons that inhabited Berk and the surrounding isles, now there exists harmony between the two species.

No one enjoys this new situation more than the lad who made it possible, Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel), and his Night Fury companion, Toothless, the two of them inseparable as they explore the ever-expanding world around them. Even pressure from his father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), to prepare for his impending role as the new chieftain of Berk can’t keep his spirit down for long when he’s soaring through the skies.

When he learns about tribes in the area who have sinister plans in store for the dragons he’s come to love, Hiccup’s only thought is to try to convince them otherwise. His plans to protect Berk and its winged friends further is sidetracked when he meets a fellow dragon enthusiast — who just happens to be his long-lost mother (Cate Blanchett).

Having stuck with the character through a TV series and a Christmas special, Baruchel is better than ever as Hiccup, who’s come into his own as a leader. He may be no less scrawny five years after the first movie, but he has confidence and intelligence to spare, not to mention limitless ingenuity, creating his own flight suit that lets him glide alongside Toothless instead of always being on a saddle.

With limited resources at her disposal, his mom’s primitive wardrobe may not compare, but Blanchett’s Valka can give him a run for his money in complete dragon knowledge, having lived with the beasts for the past 20 years after an incident back on Berk. You can tell she cares about reconnecting with her son, but why are parents who are out of the picture always making the excuse that their kids were better off without them?

Butler’s Stoick has changed a lot, that’s for sure, once distrusting dragons on principle and being embarrassed by his boy but now a fan of both — though Hiccup could do without his pep talks.

America Ferrera is back as Hiccup’s girlfriend, responsible for wrangling up their peers with little luck, with fellow dragon riders Snotlout (Jonah Hill) and Fishlegs (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) more concerned with wooing Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) — apparently the only unattached young lady in Berk — who in turn only has eyes for Eret (Kit Harington), a dragon trapper wary of Hiccup’s claim that humans and dragons can live together.

He’s not the one who needs convincing. Djimon Hounsou provides some nicely intimidating growls and yells as warlord Drago Bludvist, a fearless and fearsome type with designs on world domination through an army of dragon slaves.

Oh, wait, I just got it — his name is “dragon” without the “n”!

If you thought you got a good overview of the vast menagerie of dragons last time, there are plenty more breeds living within Valka’s sanctuary, none more impressive than the noble Bewilderbeast, a virtual landmass with wings, ice breath and the power to mentally command all the dragons in its presence.

Well, that sounds convenient for the Vikings who don’t have time to housebreak their new pals.

Although the same can’t be said about everyone, there’s not an owner-pet dichotomy for Hiccup and Toothless, whose bond only becomes stronger as the action goes on here, making this the most powerful entry to date from DreamWorks Animation. The 3-D sensibilities are, of course, a benefit, accompanied by a rousing musical score by John Powell, but the soul comes from the family at its center — you know, the timeless story of mom, dad, child and half-ton mythical animal reunited at last.

“How to Train Your Dragon 2” keeps everything that was great about its predecessor and only takes it higher in terms of quality. If you thought Smaug was the best dragon you’d see in a sequel, think again.

Contact Andy Bockelman at 970-875-1793 or abockelman@CraigDailyPress.com or follow him on Twitter @TheBocksOffice.

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