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Reviews For The Easily Distracted:
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Title: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Describe This Movie In One Reign of Fire Quote:

CREEDY: Only one thing worse than a dragon . . . Americans.

Brief Plot Synopsis: How to lose a dragon in 10 days.

Rating Using Random Objects Relevant To The Film: 3 Commissioner Beles out of 5.

Tagline: "Fly on your own. Find your way home."

Better Tagline: "Stop dragon my heart around."

Not So Brief Plot Synopsis: The Viking village of Berk has now become a haven for rescued dragons, which is causing headaches for the new chief, Hiccup (Jay Baruchel). Faced with a lack of resources and with his faithful Night Fury Toothless threatened by the ruthless dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), Hiccup convinces his fellow Vikings to hunt for the legendary Hidden World, a dragon's paradise that will put Toothless and his kind out of reach of their enemies.

"Critical" Analysis: Honestly, the How to Train Your Dragon series hasn't been about "training" dragons for about 1.5 movies. As Hiccup and Toothless and their friends have grown up, the focus of the movies has switched to Hiccup's burgeoning manhood, his attempts to fill dad Stoick's boots as Viking chief of Berk, and his relationships with both his loyal Night Fury and Astrid (America Ferrera).

The Hidden World further pursues themes first presented in the second movie. Namely, whether or not dragons really belong among mankind, and for the first time writer/director Dean DeBlois posits that maybe we don't deserve their company. Given than the residents of Berk are the only humans we've seen who don't automatically enslave them (and they had to be brought to that mindset reluctantly), it's a sensible position.

It takes a while, once again, for everyone to come around to Hiccup's way of thinking. In the meantime, he and Astrid toy with the idea of marriage, and previously underutilized characters like twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple, stepping in for T.J. Miller) and Hiccup's mom Valka (Cate Blanchett) are given some more to do.

But not too much more. It's been noted . . . somewhere that this is the longest Dreamworks Animation movie, but it didn't need to be. Parts of The Hidden World are reminiscent of Star Trek: The Motion Picture, in that there are long stretches (Toothless's courtship of the Light Fury, Hiccup and Astrid's exploration of the dragon sanctuary) that are visually stunning but do next to nothing to move the plot along.

Not that the plot is much to speak of. Grimmel's Evil Scheme is essentially the same as Drago's from the previous movie, with the added element of his vendetta against Toothless. The introduction of Toothless's girlfriend (who never gets her own name) pads things out until the inevitable conclusion. It's often cleverly done, and always beautiful to look at, if distinctly anachronistic (not only did the Vikings discover North America, they apparently invented wingsuits).

What do you call Berk's weird hybrid dragon tech, anyway? Norsepunk? Svengineering?

DeBlois presents the Hidden World as a place dragons can dwell safely until "greedy humans" (Valka's words) make the world a better place, suggesting the dragons (or reptilian horse-dogs, for the purposes of this franchise) won't be safe among us until people learn to coexist with each other. They're gonna be down there a long time, if recent the whole of human history is any indication.

How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World nevertheless provides a mostly satisfying third act to the Berk Trilogy (or whatever they end up calling it). It's emotional without being overwrought, and maintains the themes of family and loyalty throughout. There really hasn't been a weak entry in the trilogy, and The Hidden World is a fitting end to the saga.

It's going to be a real shame when it loses the Best Animated Feature Oscar to Toy Story 4 next year.
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Peter Vonder Haar writes movie reviews for the Houston Press and the occasional book. The first three novels in the "Clarke & Clarke Mysteries" - Lucky Town, Point Blank, and Empty Sky - are out now.
Contact: Pete Vonder Haar