A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is the third (and supposedly final) of the popular How to Train Your Dragon movies, which were inspired by Cressida Cowell's books. With themes of taking on grown-up responsibilities, this threequel finds young Viking chief Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his trusty alpha dragon Toothless facing big decisions and going up against dark forces who want to kidnap and enslave dragons. While the violence is bloodless (and occasionally played for laughs), there's plenty of it: Battles pit dragons against humans, humans against humans, and dragons against dragons. Expect suspense and peril; one character presumably falls to his death. Characters also exchange a few insults, possibly drink ale, and flirt and kiss chastely. There are strong messages of teamwork, courage, inclusion, rising above self-doubt, and familial support.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
In HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE HIDDEN WORLD, the humans living in the Viking town of Berk have become completely integrated with their dragon friends. Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), now a young man, has ascended to chiefdom with his trusty alpha dragon, Toothless, by his side. But human warlords who want to conquer the world are bent on enslaving dragons to fight, including the ones who live in Berk. They enlist master dragon hunter Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) to capture Toothless; he unleashes a female dragon to distract Toothless. Ultimately both Toothless and Hiccup find they must make momentous decisions for the future of their kind.
Is it any good?
This series' secret weapon has always been its gorgeous, atmospheric visuals; the third installment continues that strength but is weaker in other areas. Writer-director Dean DeBlois is still at the helm, but there's some magic missing this time around. The humor, except in flashes (such as Kristen Wiig's Ruffnut annoying her captors, or visual details such as Jonah Hill's Snotlout's failed mustache), falls flat. There is a memorable mating dance, of sorts, for Toothless and his lady dragon, that's among the series' more charming moments. But much seems poorly planned. There's more than one "secret" battle inside strongholds, that -- despite screaming, clanging, and things being burned to the ground -- somehow don't alert other warriors. Character threads go nowhere. The central human relationship between Hiccup and Astrid (America Ferrera) has little chemistry and presents a curious example for kids: We're told (not really shown) that these two love each other and are expected to marry, but there's not much evidence that they actually do nurture and support each other. The female dragon mirrors this in her relationship with Toothless.
But the movie's visuals really are special. As in the first two films, the artists' use of atmosphere, shadow, texture, light, and color gradation elevates How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. And Toothless continues to be one of the cutest beasties in popular film. You may find yourself wondering why it's called The Hidden World, when the movie spends about five minutes in that place. Still, it's family-friendly, and fans of the first two will likely want to see how the gang is doing.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the theme of growing up in How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World. How is it represented? Did you understand the choices that Hiccup and Toothless each made? Are they good leaders? Role models?
Are Hiccup and Astrid typical of the male and female characters you usually see in kids' movies? Why or why not? Do they defy gender expecations/stereotyping? Is their relationship balanced and respectful?
Which parts of the movie were scary to you? Why? How much scary stuff can young kids handle?
What do you think drove Grimmel? Why was he so against humans and dragons living peacefully together? Do you think that has any parallels in our world?
- In theaters: February 22, 2019
- On DVD or streaming: May 21, 2019
- Cast: Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, Cate Blanchett, F. Murray Abraham
- Director: Dean DeBlois
- Studio: Universal Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Magic and Fantasy, Book Characters
- Character Strengths: Courage, Teamwork
- Run time: 104 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: adventure action and some mild rude humor
- Last updated: February 25, 2020
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