How to Train Your Dragon 3D isn’t your typical swords-and-sorcery dragon fantasy fare. There are no sorcerers or cursed rings or Sean Connery dragon voices in the DreamWorks-Paramount picture — and that works in its favor by allowing believable, relatable characters to drive the story, for all the CGI wizardry and 3-D effects.
When a puny Viking boy named Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) who doesn’t fit in with his burly Norse brethren shoots down a legendary dragon with one of his geeky contraptions during a mass dragon attack on his village, no one believes him.
Defiant, Hiccup finds the wounded creature and nurses it back to health, learning things no other Viking knows about the beasts — which helps him make a name for himself at last. When his secret pet is discovered, the other Vikings use it to lead them to the dragons’ nest, and Hiccup’s loyalties and bravery are put to the test.
The dragons of the movie aren’t the majestic, intelligent creatures of The Hobbit, Dragonheart and Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manuals, but rather more down-to-earth beasties as seen in the Harry Potter movies and Reign of Fire — primal and predatory, and rooted in the reality of the world. They’re almost Darwinian in their naturalism, but they still manage funny and whimsical without being ridiculous.
The Norse humans of the film are humorous and heroic at the same time. Don’t be surprised if Vikings become en vogue suddenly just as scalawags did after Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl hit theaters in 2003.
How to Train Your Dragon 3D
Rating: PG for intense action, scary images and brief mild language
Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, America Ferrera
Running time: 98 minutes