How To Train Your Dragon:  The Hidden World

 

            This is the third installment of this animated adaptation, where the young Viking prince Hiccup (the voice of Jay Baruchel) is now a young man, and the dragon he nursed to health, “Toothless,” is also becoming the Alpha male of the dragon herd.  The Vikings have all learned to ride the dragons, and it's an amiable partnership.  But “Toothless,” it turns out, is one of a rare species, called the Night Fury, and suddenly Toothless discovers that there's a female counterpart, so naturally, his attention wanders.  Hiccup gradually realizes that if he really loves his dragon, he needs to let him go, to live his own life.  But it's a tough decision, made more complicated by the villain, who seeks to slay both remaining Night Fury specimens, “for the good of humanity.”  The bad guy has somehow managed to capture dragons and control them with their own venom, though he has no love for them, as Hiccup does.

            Hiccup is also slow to realize that the Viking princess, Astrid (America Ferrera), is interested in him, not because he's handsome and charming, but because he's stubborn, and loyal, and brave, and plagued with self-doubt enough to cure him of the pride and arrogance normally associated with entitled leadership.

            What Toothless and his “girlfriend” discover together is a Hidden World, a place below the big waterfall at the end of the ocean, where dragons can live in peace and harmony together, without worrying about violent interactions with humans.  So, the new legend has it, there the dragons await, until we humans are ready to develop peace with one another, and accept harmonious relationships with the dragons.  It might be a long wait.

            Though the plot sounds heavy, there are plenty of humorous moments to lighten the mood, especially when Toothless attempts to do a little dance to impress his potential mate.  Though there are a couple of flashbacks to the previous two films in the trilogy, this one stands on its own enough to not require viewing the others before seeing this one.  It's certainly suitable for the whole family, though this version of “happily ever after” might be emotionally different from the norm.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association