How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World review – running out of puff

All the excitement of the earlier films has been lost in this third outing for the animated series based on Cressida Cowell’s books

Here is the third and – we have to hope – the last in a franchise that could be renamed How to Drain Your Dragon. All the fire and lifeblood of this idea has been sucked out and we are left with something bland.

The first two films from 2010 and 2014, amiable enough, emerged during the 3D boom and the theme-park-type dragonback ride was an important part of the show. That novelty is now long gone. What we’re left with is screensaver cinema: a swirly succession of pretty pictures and colours. This insipid spectacle has nothing like the strong flavour of Cressida Cowell’s Milliganesque illustrations in her original books.

We are back with the Vikings and dragons on Berk Island, led by Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), who has secret feelings for Astrid (America Ferrera). But now they are menaced by an evil dragon-catcher named Grimmel (F Murray Abraham) who looks a bit like the wicked younger brother of Anton Ego, the pompous food critic in Ratatouille and sounds the tiniest bit like Steve Carell’s Gru, from Despicable Me.

When this threat manifests itself, the story takes a slightly arbitrary turn, necessitating a Moses-like plan from Hiccup to lead his people to safety in some promised land or other, a narrative indulgence whose only real function is to defer the inevitable showdown with Grimmel.

In the end, we have some Jungle Book-type agonising about whether humans and dragons really can live together. Yet, by this stage, the options of their living together and not living together are equally dull.

• This story was amended on 31 January 2019 to correct the spelling of America Ferrera’s surname.


Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
How to Train Your Dragon soars over Green Book at UK box office
Escape Room breaks into Top 10 ahead of Oscar hopefuls Melissa McCarthy and Richard E Grant in Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Charles Gant

05, Feb, 2019 @2:50 PM

Article image
The 100 best films of the 21st century
Gangsters, superheroes, schoolkids, lovers, slaves, peasants, techies, Tenenbaums and freefalling astronauts – they’re all here in our countdown of cinema’s best movies since 2000

Peter Bradshaw, Cath Clarke, Andrew Pulver and Catherine Shoard

13, Sep, 2019 @5:00 AM

Article image
Peter Rabbit 2 review – James Corden’s unfunny bunny scampers back
Voiced by Corden, Peter tumbles into a life of crime in a part-animated caper that’s occasionally cute but mostly bland

Peter Bradshaw

17, May, 2021 @4:00 PM

Article image
The Super Mario Bros Movie review – wackily eccentric gamer guys fall flat on screen
The second film adaptation of the phenomenally successful video game is a disappointment to rival the first

Peter Bradshaw

04, Apr, 2023 @7:00 PM

Article image
Lightyear review – Toy Story spinoff boldly going beyond with a treat from Pixar
This cracking origin story for Toy Story’s spaceman hero is fun and clever and reminds us why we loved Pixar in the first place

Peter Bradshaw

13, Jun, 2022 @9:00 PM

Article image
Astro Kid review – little boy lost on a planet far far away
The son of two space explorers is marooned on a world filled with dazzling wildlife in this refreshing family animation

Leslie Felperin

21, Aug, 2019 @4:00 PM

Article image
The Call of the Wild review – old-fashioned shaggy-dog story with bite
Disney’s adaptation of the classic Jack London adventure, starring Harrison Ford and a pack of CGI critters, is enjoyably corny

Peter Bradshaw

17, Feb, 2020 @8:00 PM

Article image
The Kid Who Would Be King review – Arthurian legend weaves a spell in the suburbs
A 12-year-old embarks on a thrilling quest after discovering Excalibur on a building site

Cath Clarke

14, Feb, 2019 @11:00 AM

Article image
Men in Black: International review – a galactically gormless fall to earth
This latest outing for the government agents tasked with policing pesky space invaders is a charmless and pointless affair

Peter Bradshaw

12, Jun, 2019 @1:00 PM

Article image
How to Train Your Dragon 2 review – an efficient franchise sequel
This followup to the 2010 animated hit is attractive enough but lacks fire, writes Peter Bradshaw

Peter Bradshaw

26, Jun, 2014 @9:30 PM