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Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is a thin, weakling Viking teenager who doesn't fit in with his tribe's long-standing tradition of heroic dragon slayers. It's a constant source of shame for his father Stoick (Gerard Butler), the tribal leader. But when one day he comes face to snout with one of the most feared dragons, he inadvertently discovers a more powerful way of dealing with the Vikings' 'dragon problem' than using a sword or a sledgehammer and goes on to change the lives of his tribe - and the dragons.

Review by Louise Keller:
Riding on the back of a dragon as it flies through the clouds in a multi coloured sky, only barely avoiding a collision with massive rock structures, is one of the exhilarating experiences in this innovative and endearing animated story set in the mythical age of the Vikings, when pests become pets. Based on Cressida Cowell's children's book, Dreamworks, the studio that warmed our hearts with Shrek, has created a tangible reality in which the mindset of its inhabitants who live in the "Meridien of Misery" is to slay the dragons at any cost. Killing dragons is everything, the teenage protagonist Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is told. But here's the rub. The skinny, scrawny son of the burly Chief (voice of Gerard Butler) isn't mad on the idea of violence, which is the conditioned mindset of all that live in the exotically fiery land of Berk. Make love, not war, is his mantra.

The characters are a wonderful mix of 18th century caricatured Viking pirates with impressively thick beards, horned helmets, metal body protectors and broad Scottish accents with 21st century teens with American accents and plucky, adventurous dispositions willing to take risks. The film excels in the storytelling elements in which mood and character lure us into a dangerous, unpredictable world where dragons of all colours, shapes and sizes are believed to be the enemy. Kids are put through Dragon Training as a matter of course, to learn skills such as survival, attack and teamwork.

It's droll and funny in a subtle, throw-away style as the story takes flight when Hiccup is pressured by his father to follow in his violent footsteps. With Hiccup, we learn that violence is not the only way and the way the unexpected relationship between Hiccup and the black, green-eyed dragon he names Toothless, is delightful. As Hiccup goes from heel to hero, our affection for the unlikely pair grows, as does our interest in his budding relationship with plucky tomboy Astrid (America Ferrera). The action hots up with spectacular fiery, flying dragon battle sequences, as well as a battle between father and son. The spectacle never comes at the cost of the emotional return and I admit to shedding a tear in the lead up to the climactic finish - all delivered in striking 3D. Just like the fire the dragons exhale, this film is hot.

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The first thing you notice about this film - not surprisingly - is the superb animation, which quickly vanishes and becomes a given. DreamWorks has created a state of the art family movie with a young hero and all the exotic elements of a fairy tale that seems far removed from our daily life. Or is it? I daresay the 10 to 14 year olds for whom the film is primarily made will find the soaring rides as exciting as a simulation video game (only better, faster, louder) - but adults may discern some lessons for mankind, intended or not.

The story boils down to the historic conflict between two different groups (Vikings and dragons) who have only ever known war. Both groups assume the other wants to annihilate them and acts accordingly. When an individual from one group is faced with a life defining choice and takes the path of peace, it sets in motion a chain of events that change their worlds. It's not hard to fit this scenario over many of the conflicts that rage around the world - except for the positive and desirable resolution, of course. If only the film could be added to the curriculum in conflict regions ....

There is also the all important father-son relationship in which the macho father at first bemoans his son's lack of Viking spirit (for Viking read any version of physically manifested masculinity) but comes to understand the boy after he has shown he can be a hero, albeit by a different path. No sign of mother, either . . .

Produced with all the elements that make a movie easy to absorb and with all the signposts that give audiences clues as to how to respond to the various characters - at various times - the film is also undemanding entertainment with a dash of visual thrills.

And just a closing thought: Why do all the Vikings - except for our young hero and heroine Astrid (America Ferrera) - speak with a Scottish brogue that seems to have come from the Kingdom of Shrek? Perhaps because the Kingdom of Shrek is DreamWorks ....

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Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2010)

VOICES: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrera, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig and T.J. Miller

PRODUCER: Bonnie Arnold

DIRECTOR: Chris Sanders, Dean DeBlois

SCRIPT: Dean DeBlois (book by Cressida Cowell)


EDITOR: David Teller

MUSIC: John Powell


RUNNING TIME: 97 minutes



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