Dragonheart [1996]

In the closing paragraph of his 1996 review of Dragonheart, noted critic Roger Ebert summed up this adventurous fantasy quite nicely: "While no reasonable person over the age of 12 would presumably be able to take it seriously, there is nevertheless a lighthearted joy to it, a cheerfulness, an insouciance, that recalls the days when movies were content to be fun." That's precisely the quality that makes Dragonheart so appealing, despite the fact that it didn't exactly take flight and breathe fire at the box office. The movie takes itself seriously without sacrificing the wit and cleverness that make it so entertaining. It's about the last of the great dragon slayers, Bowen (Dennis Quaid), who teams up with the last of the great dragons, Draco (and voiced by Sean Connery), after they realize that killing each other would put them both out of business! So they devise a bogus dragon-slaying act that's a huge hit as they tour from village to village. Later, they must rouse the peasantry against the loutish Prince Einon (David Thewlis), whose life was once saved by Draco, but who now violates the "Old Code" of honor with a ruthless reign of terror. As Ebert rightly noted, Dragonheart is no masterpiece, and its story (which was originally conceived as a darker, more serious drama) isn't likely to capture everyone's heart (dragon or otherwise). But it's full of exciting action, witty dialogue, and gallant heroism, and in the presentation of a realistic talking dragon it's a milestone in computer-generated special effects, far surpassing the breakthroughs of Jurassic Park three years earlier. --Jeff Shannon.

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