How to Train Your Dragon

Here’s 2010’s likely first Oscar nominee for best animated film, the tale of Viking lad Hiccup (Jay Baruchel, “She’s Out of My League“), who wants to become his village’s top dragon slayer … until he meets a real dragon and discovers that everything his people know about the beasts is wrong.

Yes, the message of “How to Train Your Dragon” is that we ought to learn about the things we fear before we start blowing stuff up. Not a bad message at that.

The supporting voice acting is excellent, especially from Craig Ferguson (TV’s “The Late Late Show”) as Gobber, the one-handed, one-legged blacksmith; Gerard Butler (“The Bounty Hunter“) as Hiccup’s alpha male father, Stoick; and America Ferrera (“Our Family Wedding“) as Astrid, budding feminist/dragon-slaying Viking, and I bet you won’t find that description for another female character this year.

The direction is from Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders (“Lilo & Stitch“) from a screenplay by the directors with Adam F. Goldberg and Peter Tolan, and suggested by a series of books by Cressida Cowell.

The film is pretty funny and although the dialogue is laced with anachronisms, they aren’t of the pop-culture variety that has already dated pictures like “Shrek.” Hiccup’s relationships with and discoveries about parents, friends and the natural world will resonate with kids. I liked the 3-D effects, but don’t think they’re necessary to an enjoyment of the film.

Unless “Toy Story 3” turns out to be a lot more than the third udder on their first cash cow, this could be a year when a non-Pixar film wins the big door prize, and my guess is that “Dragon” will have a better chance than most. “”Doug Bentin


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