Review: Third 'Dragon' running out of fire
The "How to Train Your Dragon" trilogy wraps with "How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World," a satisfying if bland capper to the nine-year tale of a boy and his dog, er, dragon.
Jay Baruchel is back voicing Hiccup, the leader of a group of viking warriors who have learned to cohabitate with dragons. And Toothless, the smooth-skinned obsidian Night Fury dragon who has come to be his best pal, is back by his side, although this time around Toothless has a love interest and a dangerous new enemy.
The love interest is his all-white female counterpart, dubbed Light Fury by Hiccup's love interest, Astrid (America Ferrera). The two dragons play and prance around each other like two puppies coming face to face for the first time in a dog park. (Series writer-director Dean DeBlois must be a dog lover, because his dragons — especially Toothless — bare many of the characteristics of canines.)
The enemy is Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham), a dragon hunter who talks a big game, because he's the villain in the third movie and he's required to pose some sort of threat to the heroes. "You've never seen anything like me!" he cackles, although he stops well short of menacing. (He shoots darts at dragons filled with a mind control serum that allows him to control them without harming them.)
"The Hidden World" of the title is a secret land where dragons can fly free, and DeBlois takes us there in the film's most thrilling sequence, which resembles a college dorm room black light poster come to life. Purples and pinks and translucent surfaces abound in the massive, magical cavern; trade the stalagmites for mushrooms and you've got a very different, very trippy sequence.
But "How to Train Your Dragon" remains thoroughly for children, even as its audience and the characters within the movie have grown up over the last decade. Hiccup now has peach fuzz on his face, and he and Astrid are talking about marriage. Hiccup's grumbling about relationships causing only heartache and misery sound like they're coming from a middle aged divorcee.
Those around him aren't given much to do, and that's where "The Lost World" falters. Jonah Hill, Cate Blanchett, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Craig Ferguson and Kristen Wiig voice characters who provide butt-related jokes for comic relief or who swoop in to gently nudge the story along toward a life lesson but otherwise don't do much other than fill the frame. They seem to have grown out of the movie.
The "How to Train Your Dragon" movies are respected — the first two garnered nominations for Best Animated Feature — but this third chapter doesn't garner more than a polite appreciation. It's a cut above a lot of the pet-related animated shlock that fills screens. But this "Dragon's" fire doesn't burn the way it once did.
'How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World'
Rated PG: for adventure action and some mild rude humor
Running time: 104 minutes