DreamWorks’ “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” (PG) has plenty of positive lessons, minus a few, well, hiccups.
He’s called “Hiccup,” and despite his quirky-sounding name, he’s the best dragon-tamer anywhere.
That’s an essential skill in a Viking-centric world where humans and dragons have, historically, battled to the death. But that was years ago. Hiccup, now 20, has brought peace between the two worlds, proving that dragons are misunderstood, friendly creatures. In Hiccup’s Viking village—called “Berk”—Vikings and dragons even live alongside one another.
But not all Vikings agree with Hiccup. In fact, many of them still trap and poach dragons, wrongly believing they are evil beings that randomly steal and kill.
That’s OK, though, because Hiccup and his band of peaceful Vikings often travel the countryside to free those caged dragons, who then are given the option of moving in with Hiccup.
Yet with all these new dragons, Berk is getting crowded. It’s also becoming an easy target for Grimmel the Grisly, a mean Viking who kills dragons and is hunting for a special one known as a “night fury” that has unique powers. Hiccup’s pet dragon, Toothless, is such a creature.
So Hiccup concocts a plan. The people of Berk (and their dragons) will move to a place where no one will find them. It’s a hidden world, across the ocean, that is the ancestral home to all dragons. If they can find it, the two sides can escape the dragon hunters forever.
DreamWorks’ How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (PG) opens this weekend, properly concluding a trilogy that began with How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and How to Train Your Dragon 2 (2014). They are based on the book series of the same name by author Cressida Cowell.
The film follows the story of Hiccup as he and the Vikings try and escape Grimmel. It also follows two love angles: Hiccup and the dragon-loving Astrid, and Toothless and the white-colored night fury known as Light Fury.
Actor Jay Baruchel returns as the voice of Hiccup and America Ferrera as Astrid. It also stars Cate Blanchett as Hiccup’s mom, Valka, and Kristen Wiig as the annoying Viking Ruffnut.
How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World may be too intense for small children but still stays in family-friendly territory—minus a few, well, hiccups.
Warning: minor/moderate spoilers!
(Scale key: none, minimal, moderate, extreme)
Minimal. Vikings have sword fights, and dragons breathe fire, but it’s largely cartoonish and kid-friendly. That is, no one dies, and we never see blood. The scariest character, in fact, is not a dragon but the eerie Grimmel, who sneaks into Hiccup’s house and threatens him in the middle of the night, claiming to be a “night fury killer.”
Minimal. Two characters kiss on the cheek and—at the end of the film—on the lips when they are married. Toothless becomes giddy about Light Fury. They go on a “date” (Hiccup’s description) and become partners.
Minimal. The Vikings of old believed in multiple gods (Odin, Loki and Thor, among them), so the filmmakers updated today’s language: “gods no” is heard once, as is “oh my gods” and “for Thor’s sake.” We hear “gods” used twice alone as an exclamation. I could have done without it. We also hear the misuse of “God” twice (although it’s garbled). Others: “butt” (2), “screwed” (1) and “barf” (1)
Other Positive Elements
We see Hiccup having flashbacks several times about his childhood and his father (who is deceased). All are sweet memories. One of them shows a young Hiccup asking his father, Stoick, if he is going to remarry and give him another mom. The father says he will not remarry. She was the “only woman” for him.
Other Stuff You Might Want To Know
Vikings drink. Drunkenness is implied, including by Hiccup (although he quickly sobers up.)
For an animated film, this one has multiple positive messages. We learn about the bond between a parent and child (Hiccup and Stoick), the long-lasting legacy of parents (Stoick), and the love between a husband and wife (Stoick and his wife). The film teaches us about leadership, as Hiccup discovers he can’t “go it alone” while battling the dragon hunters; he needs help. We learn about courage in the midst of self-doubt. Hiccup has trouble “letting go” of Toothless in a scene that will cause empty nesters to reminisce. If we’re paying attention, the film even urges us not to arbitrarily kill wildlife (poaching for rhino horns, for example).
The How to Train Your Dragon series is a cartoonish world of Nordic myths and gods. Marvel’s Thor would fit right in.
Yet that’s just the backdrop for a message about love, especially in this third installment. Toothless falls for Light Fury. Hiccup and Astrid finally consider marriage. And in a scene straight out of a Hallmark movie, a tearful Stoick thinks back to the love of his life—the only woman for him. “There’s no greater gift than love,” Stoick says.
Yes, Hiccup has to say goodbye to a friend (Toothless), but he welcomes a new chapter in his life while looking back at his father’s model example of marital dedication. Not bad for a cartoon.
The animation. The messages. The story. It’s a fun film.
The “gods” exclamations. My son kept whispering to me, “Is that a curse word?”
- Was Hiccup’s father a good example for his son? Why or why not?
- What does the relationship between Hiccup and Toothless teach us about life? About parenting? About letting go?
- What did Hiccup learn about being courageous? About leading?
Entertainment rating: 3 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars.
Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor.
Photo credit: Dreamworks