How to Train Your Dragon makes for a good matinee

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At a time when 3-D/CGI 'toons are not only ubiquitous but virtually inescapable (Monsters Vs. Aliens, Battle for Terra, Up, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, ad nauseam), How to Train Your Dragon, the latest release from DreamWorks' animation house is actually pretty decent Saturday matinee fare. Directed by Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois - the team responsible for Disney's underrated Lilo and Stitch - this boy-and-his-dragon charmer is great-looking and mercilessly bereft of the snarky attitude that makes so many "all ages friendly" entertainments an endurance test for anyone over the age of 10. Inspired by Cressida Cowell's eight volume kidlit series, it tells a classically structured adventure story in expedient fashion and uses its 3-D imagery judiciously, minus the usual cheap carny tricks. Jay Baruchel (She's Out of My League) provides the voice for Hiccup, the nerdy Viking teenager who adopts an injured dragon named Toothless, becomes an accidental hero and earns his Alpha Male father's respect in the process. The insufferable Gerard Butler - using his authentic Scottish burr instead of his fingernails-on-a-blackboard "American" accent - voices Hiccup's dad, and even he's relatively easy to take for a change. Nobody's reinventing the wheel here, but you could do a lot worse, trust me. ***

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