It's five o'clock somewhere so of course we're getting a new movie with a dragon in it. Hope you've watched enough other stuff since the last one so you're not completely worn out at least. Director Nora Twomey and her joyous crew of other creative misfits bring along the adventure film My Father's Dragon, adapted by writer Meg LeFauve from the 1948 novel of the same name that was authored by Ruth Stiles Gannett. Elmer (Jacob Tremblay) is a young boy who moves from a small town to a city with his single mom Dela (Golshifteh Farahani), hoping for a new start as they struggle financially. Elmer on the other hand struggles with this change and runs away, ending up at a magical place called Wild Island where he's tasked with a rescue of a dragon named Boris (Gaten Matarazzo).
My Father's Dragon is certainly aimed at a much younger audience than the animation studio's latest output based on its softer tones, more approachable characters and writing but don't let that fool you about its possible importance or craft. Despite the slight jab thrown at fantasy storytelling constantly involving dragons, LeFauve and Twomey's version of the story still works in terms of both emotionality and entertainment. Common trope of a child encountering a magical being which takes them on a journey can hinder your initial investment because you've seen it million times before but both children and adults can take a lot away from it as the story is able to reflect things like environmentalism (loss of sea ice due to climate change, preservation of animal habitats), value of unselfish deeds or even just power of friendship.
The movie also isn't just ideas filtered through this particular medium since there's a lot more to enjoy as well. Its character designs and usage of colour help to make it more digestible for really young kids but the animation as a whole works for the themes, the hand-drawn style making every frame worth gazing. Voice work is also solid and varied throughout the film, Matarazzo especially bringing his A-game for Boris which helps to make every joke and heartrending moment land as they're intended. Musical score by The Danna Brothers compliments the cast's work as it's often shifting from serene to bombastic and back when Elmer and Boris are running around the island. You might as well join them for 90 minutes, you won't regret it.
Smileys: Story, Gaten Matarazzo
Frowneys: Minor issues with originality
Amateur theatre is the true villain here.