Family Movie Review: How to Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World

'The Hidden World' lovingly concludes 'How to Train Your Dragon' with a gentle story about growing up.

Kernel Rating: 4 (4 out of 5)

MPAA Rating: PG              Length: 104 minutes

Age Appropriate For: 6+. Very similar to the other 'How to Train Your Dragon' films, with some violence and fighting involving medieval weapons and dragons that can breathe fire, spit venom, vomit acid, and otherwise be incredibly destructive. Humans discuss capturing and killing dragons (and four dragons fall to their drowning deaths) and there is one definitive human death (a person falls into the ocean);. Some jokes about flirting and characters having crushes on each other; the dragons' elaborate mating rituals are shown; and a couple kiss during a wedding ceremony. Also some slight mocking and ribbing between friends about whether they're ready for marriage, leadership, or other "adult" concepts.

By Roxana Hadadi

Viewers of the "How to Train Your Dragon" franchise have grown up with these characters and aged alongside them, and the final film in the trilogy, "The Hidden World," tells a reassuring story about accepting adulthood. The animation is overwhelmingly gorgeous and the story is gently mature, and the film is a perfect ending to a franchise that has always explored familial and romantic relationships with insight and nuance.

HowToTrainYourDragon3HiddenWorld1 ChesapeakeFamilyMovieReview"The Hidden World" begins a year after the events of "How to Train Your Dragon 2," in which Viking Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) reunites with his long-lost mother Valka (voiced by Cate Blanchett), loses his father Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler), and assumes the role of chieftain of Berk, his home village. A year later, when "The Hidden World" begins, Berk is nearly overrun by dragons -- they are everywhere, living in makeshift structures, walking and flying around the island, and enjoying the peace with the humans. And they all follow the rule of Toothless, Hiccup's dragon and the alpha leader of their kind.

There are more dragons arriving in Berk every day as Hiccup and his dragon riders, including his girlfriend Astrid (voiced by America Ferrera), raid more slaving ships and set dragons free. But Berk is reaching its limits, and so are the warlords who traffic in stolen dragons -- they decide to call in the dragon hunter and killer Grimmel (voiced by F. Murray Abraham), who had killed all of Toothless's fellow Night Fury dragons.

In exchange for capturing all of the dragons Hiccup and the dragon riders set free, the warlords say, they'll let Grimmel kill Toothless. And they provide him with a female Night Fury dragon, called a Light Fury, to tempt Toothless, who is becoming lonelier as he grows up --and is ready to settle down, much like Hiccup and Astrid. And so Berk prepares for what will undoubtedly be a major battle between their village and Grimmel and his warriors, but they also must prepare for other changes: Will they always live on this island? Will Hiccup grow into being an effective leader? And are their dragons going to stay with them forever?

"The Hidden World" doesn't shy away from how monumental these decisions are, but handles these narrative changes lightly and confidently. Hiccup has to alter what he wants Berk to be, but he has Astrid by his side to help him consider their options. Toothless doesn't want to be alone, but as the alpha, he also has the health and safety of all the other dragons to consider. And so both the young man and his dragon have to learn how to accept the help and trust of others, and what it means to truly lead -- even if that means severing relationships that were once meaningful and beneficial. For young viewers, the separation of certain characters may be upsetting, but the movie makes clear the inevitability of growing up and the importance of love and friendship, simultaneous messages that will be easier to understand. And for parents and older viewers, the end of "The Hidden World" will open up opportunities to discuss how people change as they grow older and the different ways we may adapt to new surroundings and new friends.

It helps, too, that "The Hidden World" is often staggeringly beautiful. In the Dolby format, the movie's wide shots of Toothless and the Light Fury dragon flying together through clouds, approaching each other in a leafy, foggy forest, and attempting a mating dance in the sand are staggeringly gorgeous; the shimmer of the Light Fury's scales are particularly impressive. And a scene in the famed Hidden World where dragons live, with glowing fluorescence and an array of bright and unique dragons, is unforgettable.

"The Hidden World" may feel slight because the film is bookended with battle scenes, but otherwise is focused on characters rather than action. But the movie's slower pace is refreshing, and gives viewers an opportunity to truly consider the statement the franchise is making in its final installment, as it wraps up this world. It's a lovely conclusion that honors not only the preceding "How to Train Your Dragon" films but treats its older viewers with the respect and guidance they need, too.

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