How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World *** 1/2

by Asher Luberto

A loving end to a lovely trilogy.  

Is it worth $10? Yes  

There's an age old saying that goes like: teamwork makes the dream work. You have certainly heard it before, and probably for its peerless veracity. So it only makes sense that it has become the unsung motto for DreamWorks Animation, whose success is predicated on filling the screen with as many cute and flashy characters as the frame will hold. Whether it's talking donkeys in "Shrek" or dancing penguins in "Madagascar" (smile and wave boys, smile and wave), the studio has always had a fire in its belly when it comes to characterization. And no one evokes this better than the fire-breathers themselves “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World.”

Picking up where the second "Dragon" left off, Jay Baruchel's Hiccup now has a beard, as well as his late father’s kingdom (they grow up so fast!), where the colorful scales of dragons take the place of clouds in the turquoise sky, and the humans dance about in their Swiss Family Robinson-like forts below. It's paradise, if only for a little while.

Returning director and screenwriter Dean DeBlois knows people want action, so that's where he starts. The crew swoops down on a Nordic boat, hopping off their dragons to give valiant introductions. They all fail, of course. But the movie’s introduction is deliciously dexterous and endearingly effervescent. A product of truly special effects and a charming script brimming with bright personalities.

"Bright" doesn't begin to describe Hiccup and his doe-eyed love interest Astrid (America Ferrera). The two are moralistic by virtue and smart by trait, which qualifies them as leaders in a world of bumbling Vikings. Still, leadership is soon called into question with with the arrival of a reprehensible dragon hunter named Grimmel. He has the face of Max von Sydow and the chilling voice of F. Murray Abraham, a combination that will make both parents and children squirm in their seats. And it's this duality that proves to be the film’s greatest pleasure.

It's a blockbuster with adventure, romance, comedy, and thanks to cinematographer Roger Deakins, it is a jaw-dropping feat in technological wizardry. More importantly, it's fun for the whole family. It's charming to see the ink-skinned Toothless bat his marble eyes as he chases the tale of his mate. (For once DreamWorks doesn't give their creature the power of speech, reminding us that actions speak louder than words). And it's thrilling to watch Hiccup lead his people (and dragons) in a Moses-like quest for the promise land. "The Hidden World" they call it. A land of peace and prosperity that seems to be drifting farther and farther away from reality for his weary people.

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People like a cocky tween (Jonah Hill), who takes a precocious liking to Hiccup's mom (Cate Blanchett). Or the twins Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple), who seemed to have wandered off Venice Beach and into this film. (Whether these two Vikings were growing hemp or not is hard to say). I wouldn't read too much into it, and it's hard to keep your mind preoccupied in a film that plays to such a breezy pace. What with John Powell's virtuous score announcing every frame as a revelation.

He may be on to something. You will sit watching “How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” in a wide-eyed bliss, and if you’re lucky, feel the breeze on your back as dragons glide through endless widescreen vistas. These boundless landscapes would have us believe that the world here is endless. But if you take away anything from this loving end to a lovely trilogy, it will be that: all good things must come to an end. Hiccup has found his identity and Toothless has found love. So unless DreamWorks wants to make a fourth centering the not-so-hidden-world of parenting, it's time to say goodbye to the genius rapport and slapstick gags. The cheery characters and cheerful creatures. To an animated trilogy done right.

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