Viking flute-laden music? Check.
Flying sequences? Check.
How To Train Your Dragon 2 has the charms of its predecessor, a few new characters, and the potential to be one of those sequels that's actually as good as the first.
Here's the problem: it's not very original. The good news? You'll still enjoy it.
Given this sequel's formula-driven plot, it seems like the first How To Train Your Dragon was just laying the groundwork for Hiccup's (Jay Baruchel) unavoidable coming-of-age tale. The dragons are trained. His dad is proud of him. Now he can, in his own words, "find out who I am," and discover that, in his girlfriend's words, "it comes from in here" (she says as she thumps her chest).
Kickstarted by his need to find his identity, Hiccup and company (Jonah Hill, Kristen Wigg and others) run into dragon-hunters, discover a dragon haven, and fight an evil dragon warlord. Every step is completely predictable, but the ride as a whole is genuinely sweet.
I'll admit I was surprised that I enjoyed it, especially given Dreamworks' tendency to employ tiring tropes in almost every animated sequel. For example, in Madagascar 2, Kung Fu Panda 2, and Shrek 2, there was a tedious meet-the-parents situation that resulted in some serious revelations of the main character's "who-I-am"-ness.
And they do it again here, true to form. But it doesn't take over the rest of the film. These scenes are mercifully brief and, thankfully, appropriately serious. They're also colored by a sincerity that relies more on visual style than dialogue; this is true of the film as a whole, setting it apart from these other Dreamworks sequels.
As Russ Breimeier said of ...1