My Father’s Dragon might be geared towards children, but it is filled with wholesome wonder that will delight viewers of all ages.
Cartoon Saloon, the studio that brought us heartwarming and touches movies like Wolfwalkers and Song of the Sea, are at it again with My Father’s Dragon. This movie explores themes of trauma, friendship, and having faith in yourself, through the guise of a gorgeously drawn wholesome children’s movie. Even though it is geared towards a younger audience, My Father’s Dragon is enjoyable for audiences of all ages.
This film tells the story of a young boy named Elmer who is having a hard time after he moves with his single mother to the city. He runs away in search of Wild Island, where he hopes to rescue a powerful dragon that he can bring home to help him earn money for his family. What follows is part adventure, part fantasy, and all fun.
This movie is extremely wholesome. There is no way it won’t tug on your heartstrings. Sure, it feels a bit dumbed down so that children can resonate with and fully understand it, but it still provides a powerful message. My Father’s Dragon is rated PG, there is no denying that. There are fart jokes (that actually are delivered perfectly and quite hilarious) and there is no real violence portrayed.
There are hints toward forcing others to do things for you (think, slavery lite) but it isn’t done in a way that is overbearing or frightening. At least not really. This movie plays it safe because of its target audience and that is fine, because it still delivers a movie that the whole family can (and will) enjoy.
What makes this story work so well is just how lovable the characters are — in particular Boris the dragon, who is voiced by Gaten Matarazzo (best known for Stranger Things). It is impossible to not fall in love with him immediately, and wish only the best for him.
Boris is charming and silly, young but passionate, and has this innocence about him that makes you want to give him a big hug, and then laugh with him about farts and butts. Jacob Tremblay voices his human companion, Elmer, who is the perfect companion for Boris. At times he is a bit rough around the edges, and doesn’t treat Boris well, but it is all in the interest of teaching kids important lessons so it can be forgiven.
We can’t talk about a Cartoon Saloon film without discussing just how visually stunning it is. Their films are always extremely gorgeous and magical to watch because of the hand drawn animation style. My Father’s Dragon is no different. The style chosen to tell this story will cause audiences to get lost in the visuals, but still captivate them enough to pay attention to the story.
There are a lot of great lessons here, like we said earlier. Ones that dive into friendship and trust, as well as hard to talk about subjects like trauma. Both Elmer and Boris are looking for something in their lives, and they didn’t expect to realize that they needed each other in order to discover it.
The story that My Father’s Dragon tells is a bit more generic than we are used to from Cartoon Saloon. It still has the gorgeous hand drawn animation style that fans are used to, but it feels more dumbed down and geared towards a younger audience than films of the past. It never goes quite as deep as most viewers will wish, leaving what feels like quite a bit of untapped potential on the table.
However, the brilliant voice acting and stunning visuals make it something the whole family can enjoy. Hearts everywhere will melt for Boris and Elmer — an unlikely friendship that is one for the ages.
Rating: 3 out of 5
About My Father’s Dragon
From five-time Academy Award®-nominated animation studio Cartoon Saloon (The Secret of Kells, Song of the Sea, Wolfwalkers) and Academy Award®-nominated director Nora Twomey (The Breadwinner), comes an exquisite film inspired by the Newbery-honored children’s book from author Ruth Stiles Gannett.
Struggling to cope after a move to the city with his mother, Elmer runs away in search of Wild Island and a young dragon who waits to be rescued. Elmer’s adventures introduce him to ferocious beasts, a mysterious island and the friendship of a lifetime.
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Tessa Smith is a Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer-approved Film and TV Critic. She is also a Freelance Writer. Tessa has been in the Entertainment writing business for almost ten years and is a member of several Critics Associations including the Critics Choice Association, Hollywood Critics Association, and the Greater Western New York Film Critics Association.