A Viking teenager named Hiccup lives on the island of Berk, where fighting dragons is a way of life. The teen's smarts and offbeat sense of humor don't sit too well with his tribe or its chief... who just happens to be Hiccup's father. However, when Hiccup is included in Dragon Training with the other Viking teens, he sees his chance to prove he has what it takes to be a fighter. But when he encounters (and ultimately befriends) an injured dragon, his world is flipped upside down, and what started out as Hiccup's one shot to prove himself turns into an opportunity to set a new course for the future of the entire tribe.
On the island of Berk lives a hardy tribe of Viking whose lives are centered on killing dragons that besiege their village, steal their animals, and destroy their homes. A Viking teen named Hiccup is not a big help when it comes to defense and everyone tells him to stay indoors and out of the way.
Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (Jay Baruchel) is the brainy son of Stoick the Vast (Gerard Butler), an old-school chief of a Viking tribe. He doesn’t understand his son’s wry humor, sophisticated observations, or his ability to create these mechanical devices that could help in their battle with the dragons. Hiccup sneaks out with his bola-shooting cannon and manages to hit the most feared dragon of all, the Night Fury - the one that is so fast and dangerous no one has ever seen it. Of course no one believes him.
He sneaks away and finds the dragon entangled in the bola. Armed with a small knife, Hiccup thinks if he kills the dragon he will be accepted by the tribe and respected by his father. But looking at the defenseless creature, he can’t bring himself to do it. So he unties the dragon’s bonds. The black dragon with the green cat-like eyes stares him down, but then flies away. Hiccup realizes that he’s just not cut out to slay anything.
Returning to the village, his father thinks it’s about time that Hiccup mans up and takes his place among the Vikings. He decides to send him to dragon school along with the other village teens while the rest of the warriors take their long ships out to find the dragon nest. Gobber the Belch (Craig Ferguson) is the blacksmith missing a leg and hand from his misadventures is in charge of the dragon school. His teaching methods are to put the teens in the arena and release a captured dragon and see how they react. Astrid (America Ferrera) is the embodiment of a strong Viking fighter. She’s fearless in her attacks, but becomes suspicious when Hiccup begins to win each competition.
Hiccup returns to the forest and finds that the dragon he released has lost a rudder wing on his tail and can’t fly. This makes him feel guilty for his part in the injury and he slowly befriends the dragon which he names Toothless. He builds him a wing, but the only way it works is if it’s manually opened. That means he has to fly on the dragon to manipulate the controls. Through his friendship with Toothless, he realizes everything he has learned from 300 years of Viking dragon lore is incorrect. He uses the knowledge discovered through his experience with Toothless in his dragon training. When he earns the right to face his first dragon to the death, he realizes that he must convince his tribe to no longer slay dragons.
Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois (Mulan, Lilo & Stitch) took over as co-directors about a year and a half before the project was due. They rewrote the story that had closely followed the 2003 children's novel by British author Cressida Cowell, which was too young and sweet. The dragon was changed from a smaller version in the book to the Night Fury. The CGI-animated movie has been created for 3D and considering the recent releases in this format, this is a way better product. The technical know-how would be nothing without the excellent story, though. The characters are entertaining and heartfelt. The family dynamic with the father, son, dragons, and friendship work so well with the action sequences that one forgets that the characters are animated. This is one movie that will keep the parents as happy as the kids. (Review by Reesa Cruz Hawkins of Dallas Movie Screenings)