Blu-Ray Pick of the Week: How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

“Isn’t It Romantic?” is also new to Blu-Ray this week.

Soft spoken, insecure Viking leader Hiccup (voice of Jay Baruchel) is back with his trusty black-colored night fury dragon Toothless at his side in “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.” As the movie opens, he raids a ship of dragon trappers with the purpose of setting the captured dragons free so they can live with him and the rest of the rescued dragons in his village. Far from a loner, he embarks on his mission with the help of faithful friends Snotlout (voice of Jonah Hill) and Fishlegs (voice Christopher Mintz-Plasse), as well as twin comrades Ruffnut (voice of Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (voice of Justin Rupple). Given that this isn’t the most competent group of Vikings to ever go on a raid, it’s good that Hiccup’s comparatively smarter and more capable girlfriend Astrid (voice of America Ferrera) is also there, and the proceedings are carefully watched over by Hiccup’s dutiful mother Valka (voice of Cate Blanchett). 

This opening sequence is a great way to reintroduce all of the main characters and get re-acquainted with the world of the “How to Train Your Dragon” series. The only notable ones missing from the first few minutes are Gobber (voice of Craig Ferguson) and Eret (voice of Kit Harrington), who we see again in the Viking village after the raid, and Stoick (voice of Gerard Butler), who fans of the series will remember is now deceased, but shows up in some flashbacks.

In a very literal way, Stoick died and made Hiccup king, but it’s not all feasts and merriment. All of the dragon rescues are overcrowding the village, and even Toothless, as king of the dragons, has trouble keeping his fellow dragons in line. Added to this domestic problem is one from afar, as notorious dragon killer Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) hears about the appearance of a night fury and becomes very interested in finding the village sanctuary and wiping out the dragons.

I must admire the creativity that went into the dragons in “The Hidden World.” They are literally and figuratively colorful. Not only do they look great and there is plenty of variety, I like the way they move as well. In particular I could see the movement of the night fury species of dragon as being very cat-like in terms of them being pouncy and playful. Other species are dog-like while some are snake-like and some are bird-like. A fairly diverse swath of the animal kingdom is represented in dragon form in this movie.

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But you ain’t seen nothin’ yet. There is no imagery in the history of the series that tops the titular Hidden World, which is a land full of dragons set inside a huge waterfall at the end of the Earth. It’s a jaw-droppingly spectacular, beautifully rendered, candy-colored feast for the eyes. The couple of scenes spent inside the Hidden World are reason alone to see this movie. In order to take in all of its splendor, do yourself a favor and don’t watch this one on your phone or on a plane. This movie deserves to be viewed in all of its visual glory. Make sure you have as big of a screen as you can get in front of you as well as a nice dark room, and Rent it.

Also New This Week

Isn’t It Romantic?

“Isn’t It Romantic” is a romantic comedy/satire that wants to have it both ways: It wants to be a send up of romantic comedies by making fun of all of the tropes and clichés, while also functioning as a romantic comedy itself. This is the same type of approach that the “Scream” series brought to the horror/slasher genre. The key, fundamental difference is that horror/slasher movies take their gore, guts, and dark themes very seriously, making them ripe for satire. Romantic comedies are by their very nature mindless fluff (this does not mean that they are inherently bad—there is value in the escapism of mindless fluff), and therefore what’s the point of sending up something that isn’t trying to be taken seriously anyway?

This doesn’t stop “Isn’t It Romantic?” from trying, as New York architect and love cynic Natalie (Rebel Wilson), after thoroughly expressing her displeasure with romantic comedies, finds herself inside of one after she is knocked unconscious during a mugging in the subway. Natalie’s life is turned upside down, as her previously crummy apartment is now fantastic, her former assistant/best friend at work Whitney (Betty Gilpin) is now her sworn enemy and rival, and Josh (Adam Devine, channeling Jason Bateman), the co-worker she friend-zoned in real life, she…still friend-zones here too. Of course, no rom-com would be complete without a meet cute with a rich, handsome man, played by Liam Hemsworth, and a gay best friend, played by Brandon Scott Jones, who is the highlight of the movie and steals every scene he is in.

“Isn’t It Romantic?” plods along in the way that rom-coms always do, hitting the standard notes and having the big revelations right on cue. The difference here is that the movie is self-aware and calls out the flaws of rom-coms as they proceed with going ahead and pushing through them anyway. I think a better movie could have been made with Natalie pushing against all of the stereotypes, rather than giving in and going along with them.

There are some moments in “Isn’t It Romantic?” that provide a chuckle or two, my favorite being the disappointing logistics of sex scenes in a PG-13 movie. This type of wry subversion, however, is sorely lacking throughout most of the movie.

One other saving grace for “Isn’t It Romantic?” is a show stopper of a musical number mid-way through. The choreography was fun and the performers all looked to be having a good time. Plus it would have been disappointing to do a movie with two stars of the “Pitch Perfect” series and not include something musical. There is another musical number at the end of the movie that’s a high energy send off, but not as much fun as the first musical number. Perhaps this is because by the end it became less fun to watch this movie just go through the motions. Stream it.

More New Releases: “The Upside,” American remake of superb 2011 French film “The Intouchables,” which itself is based on a true story, about the friendship that forms between a wealthy paraplegic and an unemployed man with a criminal record who's hired to help him, starring Bryan Cranston, Kevin Hart, and Nicole Kidman.

Andrew Hudak is a lifelong film lover. His column on Blu-Ray new releases appears every Tuesday. He lives in Connecticut.

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