“How to Train your Dragon” fun and lighthearted

In these times when movie tickets are at an all-time high and so many different options compete for your wallet, “How to Train your Dragon” is well worth your money. From the studio that brought you “Shrek,” “Madagascar” and “Kung Fu Panda,” comes another fun and lighthearted animated movie that is sure to leave a smile in your face.

“How to Train your Dragon” is the story of Hiccup, a Viking teen whose only talent seems to be getting himself into trouble. Hiccup’s village is plagued by dragons that steal their food and burn down their buildings. Hiccup is out to prove himself and unwittingly captures a dragon. Things take an unexpected turn when he can’t bring himself to slay the beast and claim the glory he’s been seeking.

The story is not new, rather a different version of the same unsuspecting hero’s journey, but it doesn’t feel stale or boring. Made in 3D, the effects are exquisite. It’s not the overrated in-your-face 3D, which has been so overdone in some recent releases and can make you a little queasy. Rather, it achieves the effect of making the audience feel as much a part of dragon training as the characters.

But don’t let the comedy fool you, in the same vein as competitor Pixar’s “Wall-E” and “Up,” the script has great depth and deals with issues that are very real like coping with parental expectations and feeling different and isolated.

The movie’s pace is also brilliant. Well edited, it never lags and even leaves you wanting more.

To put it in perspective, it snagged the number one spot in the box office the week it was released, has garnered a little over $43 million to date and has a total score of 97 percent “fresh” in movie review Web site rottentomatoes.com.

So don’t be afraid to fork over your hard-earned cash for this amazing flick and treat yourself to a movie that is sure to give you something to smile about.

Rating: 3.5/4

Director: Dean DeBlois, Chris Sanders

Starring: Jay Baruchel, Gerard Butler, America Ferrara, Craig Ferguson