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‘How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World’ Review: Third Time Still A Charmer

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Completing the trilogy of DreamWorks Animation’s enormously satisfying adaptations of Cressida Cowell’s How to Train Your Dragon book series, writer-director Dean DeBlois has again invested the story with adventure, emotion, great characters, and this time even a charming romance (in beautiful black and white). At its heart, this is still essentially a boy and his dog tale, but doing it instead as a Viking boy and his dragon.

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Continuing the legacy of Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), the kid-turned-chief and co-ruler of Berk — a utopian society where human vikings live peaceably among dragons of all stripes — and his faithful companion dragon Toothless, this animated wonder has lost none of its bite or appeal in the third chapter, titled How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. Key players are all back, and there’s a new villain in town in the form of Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), who is so intent on causing chaos and taking over Berk it forces Hiccup and clan to find other digs — in this case a hidden mythical world that accepts dragons.

Lots of complications ensue as their getaway to a new paradise is not an easy one, and that sets the table for this good-vs-bad confrontation but also surprisingly for romance. Toothess builds fire in his heart for a white Night Fury (the species of dragon to which they both belong), and takes advice from Hiccup on how to land her in one particularly charming scene of attempted courtship. Of course, as in all these kinds of adventures, their is peril at every turn, but also lots of fun to be had. This is a terrific example of a sequel to a sequel finding the same heart, soul and freshness as what has come before. Key to it are the tremendous emotional layers DeBlois puts into it, never losing sight of what makes the series work.

Of course it helps to have such a great voice cast, led by Baruchel, who knows just how to play Hiccup as this point, and also America Ferrera as his co-hort Astrid charting new levels for her character. Among the familiar supporting cast there is Craig Ferguson as Gobber, Jonah Hill as Snotlout, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Fishlegs, Kristen Wiig as Ruffnut and Kit Harington as Eret — all welcome returnees. Wiig really stands out in a frenentically funny jailhouse scene in which she literally talks her way out of there. Also back, however briefly, is Cate Blanchett as Valka, previously the unknown mother of Hiccup, and even Gerard Butler as Stoick, the father to Hiccup, who had died. DeBlois has found a way to poignantly included him as well.

Even though this is said to be the finale of the series as well know it, the ending indicates there may be more life left in the series should DWA and its new owner Universal want to keep it all going. As usual, visually it is stunning with Oscar-winning cinematographer Roger Deakins again offering his services as a consultant on the film. This may also be composer John Powell’s finest moment in the series, with an orchestral score that simply soars. Dragon fans are in for a treat.

Producers are Bonnie Arnold and Brad Lewis. Universal opens it Friday. Check out my video review above with scenes from the film.

Do you plan to see How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World? Let us know what you think.

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