AWFJ Women On Film – “How To Train Your Dragon” – Review by Susan Granger

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If you’re looking for fanciful family fun, your destination should be this animated 3-D action adventure/comedy from the makers of “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda.”

Set on the remote island of Berk in a world of ancient Nordic warriors and mythical creatures, Hiccup (nasally voiced by Jay Baruchel from “She’s Out of My League”) is a nerdy teenager who just doesn’t fit in with the rest of the brawny tribe, particularly when it comes to slaying the fierce fire-breathing dragons who periodically descend from the skies to wreak havoc. This becomes obvious at dragon-slaying boot camp, much to the disappointment of his father, the Viking chief, Stoick the Vast (voiced with a Scottish brogue by Gerard Butler), and his blacksmith mentor Gobber (voiced by Craig Ferguson). Hiccup’s classmates – Fishlegs (voiced by Christopher Mintz-Plasse), Snotlout (voiced by Jonah Hill), and stout-hearted Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera from “Ugly Betty”) – are far more feisty and ferocious.

But when Hiccup secretly rescues an elusive Night Fury dragon that he semi-accidentally shot down and maimed, he discovers that, as a species, dragons aren’t really monstrous creatures. In fact, they can be talked to, soothed and befriended. Naming his wounded and voiceless reptilian pal “Toothless,” Hiccup realizes “everything we know about you guys is wrong.” And that knowledge gives him a decided edge over his cohorts.

Based on a whimsical children’s novel by Cressida Cowell that’s been compassionately adapted and directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (“Lilo & Stitch,” “Mulan”), it’s visually thrilling, especially when the boy mounts his beast, soaring up into the sky and swooping down over the sea. There are some dazzling, bonding moments, reminiscent of “The Black Stallion.” Drawn with the face of a newt, Sleek Toothless has a feline temperament and his shimmering green eyes convey an astonishing range of emotions. For parents: the intense action and scary images earned a PG rating. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “How to Train Your Dragon” wings in with a captivating 9 – with lots of heart.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.