Rated PG for sequences of intense action and some scary images, and brief mild language, 98 minutes
Heartfelt, vastly entertaining "How to Train Your Dragon"
It's a rare feat for a truly great animated film to come along that doesn't bear the Disney and/or Pixar label, but "How to Train Your Dragon" is one of the most touching, enjoyable films released this year, animated or live action, and it's from Dreamworks Animation. The story, loosely based on a series of children's books, has a familiar, predictable feel to it, but it's lively, colorful and tremendous fun.
"How to Train Your Dragon" is set in a mythical world of Vikings and dragons. A Viking teenager named Hiccup ("She's Out of My League's" Jay Baruchel) lives on the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. The teen’s smarts and offbeat sense of humor is disliked by his tribe and its chief, Hiccup’s father, Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler). However, when Hiccup is included in Dragon Training with the other viking teens, he sees his chance to prove he has what it takes to be a fighter. After he entangles a small dragon himself, Hiccup releases and ends up befriending the dragon, who he calls Toothless. The two forge an unlikely friendship while Hiccup ends up in the battle for his life and his community.
"How to Train Your Dragon" is a magical, entertaining and often hilarious adventure ride of a film about a brave teenager who becomes a "Dragon-whisperer" and in the process changes everyone and everything around him. Made for Dreamworks Animation by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, the team behind Disney's "Lilo and Stitch," the film is actually loosely based on a series of children's novels by Cressida Cowell though it bears resemblance to other films. The biggest being "Lilo and Stitch," with Toothless reminding of Stitch in mannerisms and behavior, having changed considerably from Cowell's novels.
Baruchel, along with Butler (finally, tolerable in animated form) and some familiar voices including Jonah Hill, America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson and Kristin Wiig cheerfully voice the film, with Baruchel's distinct monotone the highlight of the film. "Dragon's" CG animation isn't earth-shattering (and very simplistic when you take a closer look) but is filled with a vivid zeal, right down to a breathtaking, predictable but touching climax that'll have you both cheering and wiping your eyes with emotion (and the dragons are more memorable than the humans).
That's really the best reason to see "How to Train Your Dragon" (and it's best seen in 3-D), the fact the film is not only packed with action and humor (the dragon training sequences in particular are very amusing) but loads of heart and good messages, which is something many live-action films have been lacking lately. "How to Train Your Dragon" is solid entertainment recommended for the entire family.