Audiences' appetite for computer-animated family adventures featuring expressive googly-eyed creatures is seemingly never ending. "How to Train Your Dragon," the latest from DreamWorks — the studio that brought you "Shrek" and "Kung Fu Panda" — is this charming film set in the mythical world of tough-talking Vikings and dragons and based on a children's novel by Cressida Cowell.
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is a gentle teenaged soul, which is exactly what his burly Viking father Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler) doesn't want him to be; he wants his son to do what every other teen learns to do on the island of Garett and Tanner: slay dragons.
To win his father's approval, Hiccup shoots down a rare Night Fury dragon with a bolas cannon and tracks down the beast, but he is unable to cut out the injured dragon's heart and releases it. Hiccup names the dragon — which looks like a cutesy combination of a black panther, salamander and bat — Toothless. A dragon proves to be a boy's best friend, and the two quickly bond.
Back home, Hiccup becomes his village's own "dragon whisperer" as he avoids violent confrontations with the beasts in the training arena, much to the annoyance of the teenaged Viking trainees, voiced by America Ferrera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jonah Hill, T.J. Miller and Kriten Wiig. And of course it only gets worse when Stoick discovers his son's secret.
Can Hiccup help Vikings and dragons all just get along? Of course he can — this is family fare that is trying to show the young and impressionable that being different is OK and things aren't always what they appear to be. For a real-world analogy, think of Hiccup as the liberal vegetarian teenager who tries to get out of hunting deer with his father, the NRA member, by offering him a Gardenburger.
"Dragon" has many soaring shots of dragons flying through the clouds that recall "Avatar," and both movies were breathtaking to watch in theaters in 3-D. At home, there is no 3-D version of this one yet, but you don't need goofy glasses to appreciate the flawless animation or succumb to the story's central theme of acceptance and tolerance.
Extras! Both the DVD and Blu-ray contain a filmmakers' commentary, "Legend of the Boneknapper 'Dragon,'" several making-of featurettes, deleted scenes and "DWA Jukebox." Exclusive to the Blu-ray are "Animators' Corner" and a trivia track.