“HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD” — 3 stars — Voices of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham; PG (adventure action and some mild rude humor ); in general release; running time: 104 minutes
SALT LAKE CITY — “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” won’t blow your mind, but it’s pretty good for a third installment in a series. And for longtime fans of the franchise, Dean DeBlois’ movie takes its characters to a place that will feel satisfying if, as reported, it will conclude the animated series.
Actually, “Hidden World” moves its characters in a literal sense as well. The third film in the “How to Train Your Dragon” series follows its young protagonist and his trusty dragon as they try to lead their people to a new home.
As “Hidden World” starts, the young Viking Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) has taken over as chief of Berk after his father Stoick (Gerard Butler) was killed in the previous film. Under Hiccup’s guidance, Berk has become an overcrowded haven for dragons, and though he takes pleasure in knowing the village is the “world’s first dragon-Viking utopia,” there are signs that not all is sunshine and endless seas.
Luckily Hiccup has the erstwhile support of his sidekick dragon Toothless, plus his mother Valka (Cate Blanchett) and a group of loyal friends — including Gobber (Craig Ferguson) and inevitable-but-not-just-yet love interest Astrid (America Ferrera). They’re on board with Hiccup’s determination to raid neighboring villages to free captive dragons, but he’s warned that picking all these fights could lead to trouble.
Sure enough, trouble comes in the form of Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), a nasty dragon hunter who is determined to kill Toothless. Working on behalf of other villainous Vikings, Grimmel comes up with a nefarious way of getting to Toothless: lure him out with a tempting female dragon.
After a couple of close encounters with Grimmel, Hiccup comes to a hard conclusion: The dragons must leave Berk in search of a safer haven. Hiccup remembers his father’s tales of a mythic hidden world beyond the sea — a dragon sanctuary out west — and decides that if their community is to survive, the people and dragons of Berk will have to try to find it.
So while the community sets out on their desperate emigration, “Hidden World” spins out a few individual plot threads for its characters. Hiccup and Astrid wrestle with the realities of their impending adulthood, and Hiccup slowly comes to realize he may have to let go of Toothless who, true to Grimmel’s plan, is very smitten by his new flying love interest. (A scene depicting their awkward courtship is one of the film’s highlights.)
The character subplots feel more substantial than “Hidden World’s” main story, which still works well enough. DeBlois packs plenty of action into the film’s 104-minute run time, and longtime fans will likely enjoy the resolution.Comment on this story
“Hidden World’s” greatest strength, though, is its consistently striking visual style, which blends kid-friendly CGI characters with amazing landscapes and the kind of gorgeous lighting that will inspire your inner explorer.
Overall, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is a nice little movie about growing up, with enough positives to keep the kids happy and the adults interested.
Rating explained: “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is rated PG for some intense animated action sequences and some crude humor.