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How to Train Your Dragon (3D)


Stars: Voices: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, David Tennant, America Ferrera, Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig, Ashley Jensen, T J Miller

Director: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois

Dragons aren't exactly original in CGI and cartoon worlds, but here's an exciting animated feature that makes them vivid, new - and sympathetic. Hiccup (Baruchel) is the runt of the litter in an island colony of Vikings that fights an ongoing battle against a nearby nest of dragons. But the dragon they fear the most is the Night Flyer, a black demon that no one has ever really seen.

Something of an inventor, the much-scorned Hiccup catches a fleeting glimpse of a Night Flyer during a dragon raid - and fires his latest invention, a kind of catapult, demolishing part of the beast's tail.

The following day in the woods, Hiccup comes upon the dragon, trussed up by cords from his contraption. Unable to kill it, he finds himself cutting it free. The dragon roars, but doesn't kill him (though you fancy this would end in tears in real life). Next day, Hiccup returns with a fish, the wounded dragon being unable to hunt.

So begins a grudging friendship bween youngster and dragon, whom he names Toothless. Through Toothless, Hiccup learns what pacifies (and scares) dragons, and soon comes top of the dragon-killing class at the Viking stronghold, winning the admiration of female warrior Astrid (Ferrera). But there is a bigger reptilian foe back at the dragons' lair...

This is well on a par with the best Disney features, if a bit scary for impressionable tinies. Baruchel's voice sounds too old for the sub-teen Hiccup, but it's impressive that a string of genuine Scots actors were hired to voice the Vikings. Lots of mid-air thrills, beautifully drawn and choreographed, blend with a non-embarrassing tentative romance between Hiccup and Astrid. Kids from five to 11 will whoop and holler at this one.

David Quinlan

USA 2009. UK Distributor: Paramount (DreamWorks). Colour by deluxe/Technicolor.
96 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: PG.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 0, Drugs 0, Swearing 0.

Review date: 27 Mar 2010