MOVIE BUFF-ET: Solid ‘How to Train Your Dragon’ series growing up with its fans

DreamWorks Animation

Since “How to Train Your Dragon” burst onto the big screen in 2010, the computer-animated franchise of films has surprised with its humor, warmth, and depth, and the third entry is no exception.

“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” pushes the story of Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), Astrid (America Ferrera), Gobber (Craig Ferguson) and the other Viking dragon riders even further as they seek to find new lands where their community of Berk can grow safely without the interference of predatory adversaries like Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham), a nasty dragon hunter who favors Billy Idol, and whose goal is to hunt Night Furies like Hiccup’s dragon Toothless into extinction.

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On the surface, “The Hidden World” is a movie about finding a realm at the edge of the world where dragons can roam free from danger, but in truth the movie is a parable about growing up and accepting responsibility with Hiccup at the center. Though missing a foot and not nearly as brawny as his other Norse friends, Hiccup is the leader of Berk, and it’s his responsibility to safeguard the society they have built even if it means making tough, responsible choices that will change the nature of his relationship with his beloved pet Toothless and his girlfriend Astrid.

Toothless’ story parallels with his buddy Hiccup’s when a pure white female dragon, dubbed Light Fury by Astrid, is discovered that catches his eye. While still devoted to his master, who fashioned a prosthetic fin rudder that helps the dragon fly in the first film, Toothless can’t escape the allure of the Light Fury, and promptly begins to woo her.

Hiccup, however, is leery of taking the broad step into adulthood with Astrid. He prefers the status quo, although he knows in his heart of hearts that taking the next step is not only important for him and Astrid, but also for Berk.

Under Hiccup’s direction, the people of Berk and their dragons begin a flight to find the “Hidden World” in hopes of escaping Grimmel and his fleet of other dragon hunters.

As with the other films in the series, the character design and animation are colorful, fun, and dynamic. The humorous script hits all the right notes propelling the story along with conflict, danger, and action, while subtly driving home Hiccup’s need to make a commitment for his girlfriend and himself.

The movie works as fantasy action-comedy, as well as a coming of age tale that should add a bit more value to the adults, who enjoyed the first film when they were tweens.

(PG) 1 hr. 44 min.
Grade: B+

Classic Corner


Columbia Pictures

In many ways comedies age more harshly than any other type of film, particularly ones of a topical nature.

What was funny in 1940, 1980, or even in 2000, isn’t always so humorous or even acceptable to a modern audience. More than a few movies regarded as the height of hilarity in their day, would never be filmed today — most of Mel Brooks’ movies come to mind, even though I admittedly still find most of them hilarious.

Dramadies tend to hold up a little bit better over time, or at least for me. Director Sydney Pollack’s 1982 hit “Tootsie” is a great example. It’s just as funny today as the day it opened.

The script is by Larry Gilbert, Barry Levinson, and Murray Schisgal, all masters of the comedic craft, and they provided Pollack and star Dustin Hoffman with classic material that allowed him to delve back into his quirky comedic roots after a decade of making films like “All the President’s Men,” “Marathon Man,” and “Kramer vs. Kramer.”

Hoffman plays actor Michael Dorsey, who rightly develops a reputation as a perfectionist who while talented isn’t worth the trouble he brings to the set. Unable to land a job, even in TV commercials, Dorsey dresses in drag and wins a role as middle-aged female character, Emily Kimberly, on a popular daytime soap opera “Southwest General.”

Playing his character as a feisty feminist, Dorsey finds himself at odds with his good fortune as character takes off, becoming a national sensation. However Emily’s popularity makes it more difficult for him to abandon the role so he can produce his dream play.

Making matters worse, Dorsey falls in love with his co-star Julie (Jessica Lange), who sees Dorsey as a female friend, not a possible lover.

Dorsey is so convincing as his character that he becomes the object of desire for male co-star John Van Horn (George Gaynes) and even receives a proposal from a friend’s father Les Nichols (Charles Durning).

The whole situation comes to a head when the cast has to perform the show live because of an equipment malfunction, and Dorsey not only shocks the cast, but also the national viewership.
The movie garnered 10 Academy Award nominations, but only Lange won for Best Supporting Actress. The movie is highly recommended.

Turner Classic Movies is showing the film at 7 p.m. (CT) Saturday.