'How to Train Your Dragon' is a thrill

Great message and great effects make Dreamworks effort worth watching

In "How to Train Your Dragon," a 3-D, computer animated film and the latest effort from DreamWorks, we're introduced to the teen-age Viking Hiccup and his remote, dreary and ocean-swept home of Berk somewhere in the imaginary North Atlantic. The place is bleak, but it gets worse. Turns out the community has a little dragon problem.

Dragons of all shapes and sizes storm Berk, terrorizing Vikings and killing their livestock. And killing dragons is practically the credo of Berk. You kill a dragon, you're a hero - it's the Viking way. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) desperately wants to win the approval of his father, the heroic tribal leader, Stoick (Gerard Butler). But like a lot of teen-agers trying to please their parents, they mess up. And Hiccup's mess-ups are monumental.

He just wants to fit in - and maybe win the heart of Astrid (America Ferrera), the most popular and bravest teen in town. But doing that is much harder than Hiccup anticipated - that is until he discovers a Night Fury, the most elusive and dangerous of all the dragons. The Night Fury is wounded and Hiccup's discovery of him leads to the unveiling of dragon secrets no Viking has ever considered. And in the process, Hiccup discovers himself.

There are plenty of typical 3-D shots, that don't necessarily move the story along, such as sparks flying into the audience or a dragon dunking its head into a lake for fish. And then there are the more subtle 3-D shots, such as snowy ash that acts more as background but which brings the audience right into Berk alongside Hiccup and Astrid. There are also stunning dragon-riding scenes that call to mind the point-of-view rollercoaster film clips you see now and again-so lifelike they're dizzying.

But best of all, in this adaptation of the book by Cressida Cowell, is the story. It was written by Will Davies, Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders. There are enough twists and emotional tugs that will satisfy the crustiest of curmudgeons. DeBlois, who was in Seattle last week said the story had "real peril in it." Hiccup and Astrid are outstanding role models for kids - though the film might be too intense for little ones. Astrid in particular, shines. "Astrid is a great role model," DeBlois said. "She's also the first Viking to make the turn to appreciate what's not known about dragons. She sees how the world can change."[[In-content Ad]]