FILM REVIEW – HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3: THE HIDDEN WORLD. With the voices of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler. Written and directed by Dean DeBlois. Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor. 104 minutes.
The “How To Train Your Dragon” series, based on books by Cressida Cowell, have done well at the box office and with critics. People are impressed by the animation, the flying dragons, and making a young hero with a physical challenge – Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) suffers the loss of a leg in the first film – the story’s protagonist.
All well and good. This reviewer was tepid on the first film, but enthusiastic about the second. Now with HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 3: THE HIDDEN WORLD, the third (and presumably final) film in the series, it’s back to tepid. Why? Read on, but let’s first address parents who want to know if they should take their kids to see it, particularly during school vacation week.
Yes, of course. The animation is colorful and vibrant, and the story is about Hiccup trying to find a safe haven for his people and for the dragons, in the face of Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), who has made it his mission to kill the particular type of dragon known as Night Furies of which Toothless, Hiccup’s dragon, is one. Those who enjoyed the first two films, and the children who have watched them over and over, will be thoroughly engaged. The movie’s coda, which takes us several years ahead of the action, provides a touching conclusion to the series that even this reviewer found hard to resist.
That said, it is an amazingly dull film, consisting mostly of scenes of dragons swooping through the sky in battle or engaging in courtship as Toothless meets a female Night Fury, dubbed Light Fury, not knowing that she has been sent by Grimmel. If you enjoy the creatively designed dragons flying about, no problem. However, if you want any sort of depth, you’ll need to look elsewhere. Hiccup is all self-doubt. Grimmel is smarmy arrogance. Astrid (America Ferrara) is the feisty female who is really there just to inspire the hero.
Children who don’t concern themselves with such things can enjoy the dragons which are the real appeal of these films. When the issue comes up whether Hiccup and his people can continue to protect and live with the dragons, or will the creatures need to go to the “hidden world” to be safe from humans, the film tries to have it both ways. Young viewers won’t care. Many adults won’t care. Those who do recognize the thinness of the script may not find the vivid animation is enough to overcome it.
DreamWorks has proven a worthy rival to Pixar, but “How To Train Your Dragon 3” is more akin to “Cars 3.” It’s a sequel that will do well at the box office, but not something that will regarded as one of the hallmarks of the studio.•••
Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His latest novel, Father of the Bride of Frankenstein, has just been released. He is the 2018 recipient of the Skylark Award given by the New England Science Fiction Association. He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.