How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, reveals the perils of building a long-running story line around a character named Hiccup.

That’s a fine nickname for a tyke, but unbecoming a Viking leader leading his ax-wielding, dragon-taming people into new frontiers.

In this, the third installment of the popular DreamWorks animated series, Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is grappling with the challenges of leadership, and dealing with his own budding romantic feelings for Astrid (America Ferrera). The raised pulse rate is contagious. Hiccup’s jet-black dragon buddy Toothless has spotted an attractive female, a rare all-white dazzler, and his awakened dragon hormones have him fixated on mating rituals.

These distractions could hardly come at a worse time for Hiccup and his clan, which has made an alliance with dragons that has caused the village of Berk to swell in size as it accommodates its new flying citizens. The growing dragon population also makes Berk a target — an infamous hunter/killer of dragons known as Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham, doing Dracula shtick) has set his sights on the Viking outpost, and has a particular interest in killing Toothless, one of the last of a breed of Night Fury dragons.

The Hidden World — written and directed by franchise regular Dean DeBlois, and adapted from the children’s books by Cressida Cowell — follows the classic lines of human-animal coming-of-age tales, marching toward the moment when Hiccup comes to acknowledge that his dragon friend is a wild creature, and should be freed to seek his own natural destiny, in his own world.

Hidden World amplifies that theme with a subplot about Hiccup and Astrid searching out the location of a mythical dragon home hoping to find a world where Toothless will be safe from humans like Grimmel, and giving the DreamWorks animators an opportunity to work in a new palette, with new patterns.

The scenes of Toothless flirting with his dragon counterpart are nicely done (there’s a shout-out to the Lady and the Tramp meatball scene), and the movie really soars when the dragons do the same — as in previous installments, the best shots are of dragons maneuvering through the clouds.

Elsewhere the movie feels overcrowded with creatures, and during some of the dragon fights (Grimmel has a private army of mind-controlled creatures), it’s often difficult to tell them apart. The action sequences can get messy, and “comedy” built around Hiccup’s human sidekicks (Jonah Hill, Kristen Wiig) has grown tiresome, but Hidden World is for the most part judiciously edited, and DeBlois brings the series to a close with efficiency, if not a surplus of emotion.

As for Hiccup, by the end of the movie he’s grown a beard.

Now if he could just do something about that name.



How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World

Directed by Dean DeBlois. Featuring the voices of Jay Baruchel, America Ferrera, F. Murray Abraham, and Cate Blanchett. Distributed by Universal Pictures.

Running time: 1 hour, 45 mins.

Parents’ guide: PG

Playing at: Area theaters