Everyone's back for 'How to Train Your Dragon 2,' the family-friendly sequel that takes the franchise to the next level. Made for for fans of the first 'Dragon' and those who relish in solid animated movies that adults can enjoy just as much as the kids.

Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.

How to Train Your Dragon 2

Prior to see the first How to Train Your Dragon, I intentionally avoided it solely because of its title. Not knowing a thing about the story, the title seemed absurd to me. I literally had no idea what I was was going to see when I walked into the IMAX theater for that screening. As I watched, I became like a little child: I gradually moved closer and closer to the screen, completely fixated on the fantastic animation and visuals. I found myself 100 percent emotionally invested in its exciting story and lovable characters. Afraid that How to Train Your Dragon 2 wouldn’t be able to live up to the first, I followed suit and avoided everything about it prior to the press screening. I once again walked in blind and, once again, was amazed at the enjoyable experience.

Set several years after the events of the first movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2 features the same set of characters on a new grand adventure. Now 20 years old, one-legged Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his rare pet Nightfury, named Toothless, are off on adventures of their own. With Hiccup’s father (Gerard Butler) trying to prep his son for the mantel of village chief, Hiccup couldn’t be more excited about the ability to freely leave with his winged best friend. Together, they go out on two sorts of missions: one, they map the many islands and lands from their spectacular cruising altitude and, two, they attempt to perfect Hiccup’s latest aerial inventions – a mechanized tail to help Toothless during solo flight (remember how Toothless’ tail was damaged in the first movie, leaving him unable to fly without a rider?) and a winged body suit for Hiccup to be able to glide alongside Toothless.

While avoiding his father, Hiccup, his girlfriend Astrid and their dragons find trouble in the surrounding lands. A dragon poacher has been hired by a villain named Drago to capture as many dragons as possible for his “dragon army.” We don’t know exactly what Drago’s master plan is, but when he learns of the tamed dragons in Hiccup’s village of Berk, Drago is going to go berserk.

The adventure that lies ahead is full of danger, surprise, heartbreak, love and pain. How to Train Your Dragon 2 is a bit darker than you might expect, but not so dark that it’s unsuitable for kids. I compare it to the Kung Fu Panda sequel. The ante is upped as we learn more about our central characters. The challenge that lies ahead is deadly and seemingly impossible.

I highly recommend checking out How to Train Your Dragon 2 this weekend. It’s fun quality entertainment for everyone. If you don’t know the first movie or haven’t seen it in some time, I recommend giving it another viewing before seeing chapter two of this planned Dragon trilogy. Watching the first prior to the sequel will show you just how strong this fantastic family series is progressing.

(Photo credit: 20th Century Fox)

4 out of 5

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