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How to Train Your Dragon

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The number one cause of death among Vikings wasn’t rampant scurvy, Norman conquerors or even brain hemorrhage from prolonged exposure to very loud death-metal music. According to this DreamWorks 3-D animated movie, the biggest threat to their mortality was dragons. Woe be to any fire-breathing beast that came across Stoick the Vast (Butler), a tribal leader renowned for his reptile-dispatching skills. His slim wimp of a son, Hiccup (Baruchel), didn’t inherit Dad’s dragon-slaying prowess. But when Hiccup befriends a wounded baby dragon, the resident runt discovers that, three-alarm halitosis or not, the winged behemoths may not be the mindless killing machines he’d been led to believe they were.

You could chalk this kid’s flick up as another manic Saturday-matinee time killer if it weren’t for a singularly impressive element. It’s not the stretchy, lava-lamp--ish animation, which offers the usual in-your-face 3-D tricks. (The odd shot of a dragon’s flight against the aurora borealis is gorgeous enough to shake you out of your stupor.) Nor is it the vertiginous climax involving some sort of Kraken-like monster. Rather, embedded among the standard platitudes of parental tolerance and teens finding their own way, is the notion that we should try to understand our “enemies” instead of engaging them in perpetual, passed-through-generations warfare. Imagine that! Such subversive notions in a family-friendly, franchise-ready movie will undoubtedly have Glenn Beck et al., decrying it as an example of Hollywood liberalism. Everyone else will wonder where this movie was during the lead-up to the mess(es) we’re in now.

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Release details

Rated: PG
Release date: Friday March 26 2010
Duration: 98 mins

Cast and crew

Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders
Screenwriter: Dean DeBlois, William Davies