Warm as the breath of a giant lizard and occasionally capable of flying as high, Dean DeBlois' How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World gets by despite a thin storyline.
While The Hidden World is the third entry in the series of Cressida Cowell's books, DeBlois still manages to figure out charming ways for Vikings and reptiles to interact.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World
87 Cast: (voices of) Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, Cate Blanchett, Gerard Butler, Craig Ferguson, Jonah Hill, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Kristen Wiig, Kit Harington, Justin Rupple
Director: Dean DeBlois
Rating: PG, for adventure action and some mild rude humor
Running time: 1 hour, 44 minutes
A little love story doesn't hurt either.
In this outing Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is now firmly established as his village's chief, and his band of warriors now performs a unique sort of animal rescue. While dragons make formidable weapons of war, they also attract poachers who want their fireproof scales or simply pride themselves for having killed or conquered one of the beasts.
One particularly vicious hunter is Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), who kills them without regard or mercy. He even drugs them with their own venom to get them to do his bidding.
Grimmel particularly covets Toothless, Hiccup's reptilian soul mate, because the night fury is one of the last of his breed. To lure Toothless to his doom, he uses a similar dragon called a "lightfury." She looks like a photo negative of Toothless, and the two hit it off even though she's at Grimmel's lethal whims.
Knowing how dangerous Grimmel is and knowing others pose a danger to their town, Hiccup and the woman he can't quite bring himself to admit he loves, Astrid (America Ferrera), know they have to move away. His late father Stoick (Gerard Butler) knew of a secret land where dragons could live without human interference. Unfortunately for his son, the late chief never finished the map.
In some ways, the uncomplicated plot is an asset. Watching Toothless and his potential bride flirt is entertaining despite the fact that DeBlois refuses to anthropomorphize the dragons. They move and act more as cats or dogs than people, and all their wooing is entirely nonverbal.
Perhaps this movie should have been released for Valentine's Day.
Thankfully, the human characters are endearing as well. The voice casting is predictable but effective. Kristen Wiig is expectedly funny as an annoying dragon pilot whose mouth is incapable of stopping, and Kit Harington does just fine playing a CGI version of the role he played on Game of Thrones.
It's also great to hear Abraham relishing in Grimmel's arrogance and excessive self-regard. He could consider playing a dragon hunter a step down from Amadeus but, thankfully, he approaches the task at hand with the same zeal Grimmel would.
All three movies feature breathtaking flying sequences, and there's enough spectacle for The Hidden World to loan out to other less fortunate films. There are countless scenic vistas and jaw dropping battle sequences.
Even though many of the delights in the How to Train Your Dragon series are in a viewer's face (pyromaniacs will have much to enjoy), DeBlois still manages to sneak in a sentimentality that seems more earned than cloying.
MovieStyle on 02/22/2019