Bob Grimm models his new hat and fake beard.

Bob Grimm models his new hat and fake beard.

Rated 4.0

Avatar had some nice effects, but a dopey story. Alice in Wonderland lacked in both departments. 3-D movies were starting to get me down.

Along comes How to Train Your Dragon, a technically awesome, emotionally touching and all-around fabulous movie to restore my faith in 3-D. And … it’s a cartoon.

I’m saying it now: With films like this one and Up, Hollywood is doing a better job making people cry with animation than with real life characters. Toothless the Night Fury dragon immediately stands alongside The Iron Giant and Wall-E as all-time great animated characters with heart. I would love to see the three of them all team up to make the world a better place.

On second thought, scratch that. If we saw animated characters running around among us, it would cause international panic, mass suicide and rampant drinking and drug use as a means of coping with what seems impossible. But I digress.

Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) is the skinny, intellectual son of Stoick the Viking (Gerard Butler). Dragons constantly plague their village, and Stoick’s dream of his son becoming a dragon slayer is fading due to Hiccup’s brainy and bicep-less nature. Little does Dad know that Hiccup is a crack shot with his homemade dragon-catching gun. One night, during a mass dragon attack, Hiccup fires a shot and shoots something out of the sky.

Hiccup finds the dragon in a valley, fashions a saddle, and begins piloting the beast through the skies in a manner that is visually marvelous. The 3-D rides with Toothless the Dragon are some of the best visuals the medium has offered. While I was no fan of Avatar, the flights upon the creepy, freaky horse things were nice eye candy. The Toothless flights are just as good, if not better.

Toothless is a terrific character, sort of like a big Black Labrador with wings. He’s one of many dragon breeds in the film, all of them inventive. The movie is based on a book by Cressida Cowell, and I love the reason why dragons steal livestock and food. It makes for a raucous finale.

The vocal cast is first-rate. Baruchel manages to inhabit the character of Hiccup with a true adventurous spirit. His character is forced to take dragon-slaying classes, where characters are voiced by the likes of America Ferrera, Kristen Wiig and Jonah Hill. Talk show host Craig Ferguson provides decent laughs as Gobber, the town blacksmith.

I suppose the best thing that can be said about Dragon is that, like last year’s Up, it’s a story and visual treat that will win you over, even in 2-D. The 3-D visuals are can’t-miss stuff, but the story is an enjoyable one full of good humor that should please parents and kids alike.

It’s recently been revealed that the price of admission to 3-D movies will be going up. Hollywood is churning these things out so fast that theater chains don’t have the means to show them. In Northern Nevada, we only have a few screens showing 3-D, and with Clash of the Titans coming out the week after Dragon, you will have a very short time to see Dragon in 3-D. We need more screens—now!

Hats off to the producers who got Iceland’s Jonsi, of the band Sigur Ros, to contribute “Sticks and Stones,” a sweet, jaunty song that plays over the closing credits. Just another reason this movie is cool.

Make plans to see this one as soon as you can. When I caught it at a late Saturday night showing, people of all ages were laughing and screaming with delight. It’s a great movie to experience surrounded by people, even when they are coughing and hacking and popping soda cans.

That’s right, How to Train Your Dragon is a movie so good it will make you oblivious to the fact the hacking dumbass behind you just sprayed you with next week’s cold! Hey, that’s high praise!