Monday, April 5, 2010

This 'Dragon' has bite

“How to Train Your Dragon”
3 stars

By Joe Maniscalco

Life is tough for young Vikings with more brains than brawl. You get picked on, pushed aside and girls won’t even look at you.

Then there’s the ever-present danger that some dragon is going to eat you or chew your leg off.
That’s the situation facing Hiccup, the star of the delightful and thoroughly entertaining new animated feature “How to Train Your Dragon.”

It’s no accident that young Hiccup’s life mirrors a vast segment of the ever angst-ridden teen population — with the possible exception of the man-eating dragons. In other words: “Ca-ching!”

Forget the cynical formula designed to separate youths from their allowances, however. “How to Train Your Dragon” is a wonder to behold — one part Rankin/Bass, one part killer video game cut scene.

Gerard Butler is back in full “300” voice-mode as Hiccup’s dear ol’ dad, the village’s bombastic Viking leader bent of hunting down the dragons’ lair and wiping them out once and for all.

The clash between father and son is so creaky it squeaks, but for my money this take on “civilization versus nature” is visually more compelling and narratively more engaging than James Cameron’s over-hyped “Avatar.”

The animation here is suburb and lovingly rendered. Cinematically, “Dragon” is a thrill ride. Even in the most static scenes the camera swoops and dives, looking over shoulders and peering down dizzying precipices.

Kids will love it and parents won’t ever feel like nodding out.

Craig Ferguson is perfect as the Viking chief’s one-handed, right-hand man. There’s even a Viking punk who looks alarmingly like Axl Rose.

It turns out that amputation plays a big role in “Dragon” — so much so, that these cartoon Vikings just might have a lot more to offer than horned helmets and battle axes.
But those clanging weapons are still pretty cool.

“How to Train Your Dragon”. Starring Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson and America Ferrera. Runtime 98 minutes. Rated PG.

Playing in Brooklyn at the UA Court Street Stadium 12 in Downtown, UA Sheepshead Bay 14, and Linden Boulevard Multiplex Cinemas in East New York.


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