“How to Train Your Dragon,” or as I like to call it “That Viking is out of my League,” is the second film in as many weeks in which actor Jay Baruchel (“She’s out of my league”) plays a scrawny nerd looking to find himself. It also happens to be infinitely more entertaining.
He lends his voice to Hiccup, a hapless young Viking living in a village overrun by flying dragons. He longs to be like his great dragon-killing father, Stoick (Gerard Butler), and charm the likes of the beautiful Astrid (America Ferrara), with whom he is enrolled in dragon-battle training. While dragon killing isn’t for him, he soon finds a particular knack for dragon whispering, subduing the beasts with his wits and even making a friend in one that he names Toothless.
Soon realizing that the reason for why the dragons are attacking, he tries to convince dad that the winged creatures really aren’t so bad after all.
Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois have created a tremendously fun 3-D experience, setting the bar for animated 3-D much like “Avatar” set it for live action cinema. The action is thrilling stuff, especially the flying scenes between Hiccup and Toothless. Watching as they soar, dip, elevate, and push it to the limit through the clouds, it captures all the joy and pulse-pounding danger of flight.
And John Powell’s perfectly matched musical score only enhances this. What makes it even better is a touching story of friendship and following in the footsteps of one’s father. The animation looks great, from the large, bushy-haired Vikings to the comically goofy-looking dragons.
The voice cast is also well-matched. Baruchel has a wheezy comic charm, Craig Ferguson gets the best lines as the village blacksmith, and who better to voice a Viking than Gerard Butler? “Dragon” is as heartfelt as it is impressive to look at, a family film perfect for all ages.