The “How to Train Your Dragon” series has rather quietly and unassumingly become one of the last decade’s most successful kiddie franchises. So quietly, in fact, that somehow my kids and I have never seen any of them. Yes, a part-time film critic with children ages 8 and 4 has somehow never watched these tales of Vikings and adorable dragons.
After seeing the third and final installment, “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” I can safely say we’ve missed out. This is involving, gorgeously animated stuff that will delight audiences. Think “Game of Thrones” minus the graphic killings, incest, undead armies, witches — OK, just keep the dragons.
What’s the story? When brother of dragons Hiccup discovers that his buddy, Toothless, is not the only Night Fury, he must seek a hidden dragon utopia known as “The Hidden World.” Meanwhile, an evil dragon hunter named Grimmel (voiced by Salieri himself, F. Murray Abraham) is on the hunt for Toothless and hellbent on taking him out.
What’s the rating? The film is rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor. While there are some darkish moments, it is all handled in proper PG fashion; even a dragon killing is done within seconds.
What’s the ideal viewing age? The film is, in a word, cute. Cute dragons, a cute dragon love story (the scenes in which Toothless courts a Light Fur” dragon are adorable, and perhaps the film’s best), some cute nuzzling between Hiccup and his girlfriend, Astrid. Even the battle sequences are rather cute.
This means that “Dragon” is probably appropriate for most children older than age 5. And, interestingly, it may hold just as much appeal for those even 10 years older. After all, these viewers have grown up with the series.Adults may enjoy picking out the notable voices, including Cate Blanchett, Kristen Wiig, Jonah Hill, and, speaking of “Game of Thrones,” Kit Harrington.
Is there anything else parents need to consider? “The Hidden World” is opening just two weeks after a more high-profile family-friendly sequel, “The Lego Movie 2.” But while "Lego 2" has its moments, "Dragon" will truly satisfy. It is far more effective at world-building than “Lego,” and its visual beauty is even greater. If you are considering both films for an expensive outing at the movies, I’d recommend you to go with Toothless and friends.
Against all odds, “Hidden World” is more awesome than “Lego,” and that’s why my household will be catching up on the first and second “How to Train Your Dragon” films ASAP.