This animated pic from DreamWorks doubles up on can’t-miss plotlines, seasoning a classic Underachiever-Makes-Good story with the heartfelt sentiment of a boy-and-his-dog tale . . . but with a dragon. Yet the pic’s main pleasure comes simply from seeing what DreamWorks animation can do when they rein in the incessant jokey tone & unrelenting ‘Pop’ references that swamp too many of their recent pics. The Viking Village of the story feels closer to Scotland than Scandinavia, and the dragons have been given the personalities of pussy cats for some reason, but the basic idea of warring parties (townspeople & dragons) who battle each other without ever realizing they just might have a common enemy, plays out with some of the wit & charm of a Dr Seuss fable. And the brave lad who’’d rather make peace than fight, makes a winning & companionable hero. The DVD has come up sharp & bright in spite of losing its theatrical 3-D effects, but John Powell’s music score has been pushed so far back in the SoundScape, it might be Muzak at the mall.
DOUBLE-BILL: The daydreaming wimp who takes on the bullies with his wits as well as his fists was a well-deserved smash in the Henry King/Richard Barthelmess pic TOL’ABLE DAVID/’21. It later served as the ‘straight’ template for many of Buster Keaton & Harold Lloyd’s best comedies. Buster makes his dad proud, even taking on a hurricane in STEAMBOAT BILL, JR/’28 & Lloyd more or less remade TOL’ABLE (with laughs) in his masterpiece, THE KID BROTHER/’27.