Review – No More Hiccups (“How To Train Your Dragon 3: The Hidden World”)

Dreamworks says this is the final installment of the HTTYD franchise, even though it’s one of their biggest cash cows, right up with their Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda mega-series. I thought the first two movies were so strong it could keep going, but what do I know? Goodbye, Toothless, we knew ye well.
It goes without saying that required watching of the two prior movies would help in seeing this third film. It’s been a year since young Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) and his BFF, Toothless (the Night Fury dragon), have conquered the ruthless dragon-hunter, Drago Bludvist, and peace has finally come to his village of Berk, even though it cost the life of his dad, Stoick (Gerard Butler). But being the new ruler comes with great responsibility, not which at least is his mission to free every captured & hunted dragon out there and bring them back to Berk; a viking village being grossly overrun by dragons. Seriously, isn’t all that dragon poop a problem?
However, Hiccup and his fearless gang of dragon-hunter-hunters are up against the worst of the worst: Grimmel the Grisly (F. Murray Abraham) whose hatred of all dragons (especially Night Fury’s) knows no bounds… even though he keeps a couple around for protection, so there’s that. His plan? Use his own captured female white Night Fury (a Light Fury, TYVM), to lure Toothless away, as Toothless happens to be an alpha dragon to all the others. Who knew? While that sinister plan is hatching, there’s a bunch of other side plots including: Hiccup and his girlfriend, Astrid (America Ferrera) discussing marriage, can Hiccup lead his people wisely, and narcissistic and short teenager Snotlout (Jonah Hill) having the hots for Hiccup’s mom, Valka (Cate Blanchett). Eeuukk.
Anyway, nobody can escape the Crimes of Grimmel the Grisly, as he is always one step ahead of our heroes and “enjoying the hunt”. Finally, just as Toothless and the Light Fury start to bond and Hiccup finds out about where the legendary Hidden World of dragons actually is, disaster strikes! Grimmel discovers the new home of the Berkians and attacks, capturing Toothless and his new mate. Oh no! Will Hiccup and his friends mount a daring and ridiculous rescue mission to save their dragons? Will Grimmel and Hiccup face-off for one last battle? And what’s up with Fishlegs Ingerman who always carries a baby dragon around like an infant? That’s. Not. Right.
Written & directed by Dean Debois, who wrote & directed the other HTTYD movies, the film patterns the same ending as author Cressida Cowell’s book ending. Much like the Harry Potter franchise, we even get a satisfying glimpse in the future with an older Hiccup and his kids. As far as trilogies go, this finale (??) is by far the most ambitious and looks spectacular in its CGI and scope, but it has some trouble in the storyline which is threadbare and overused. Aside from the textured and fun mating scenes of Toothless and his lady Fury (the best parts of the movie), the rest is the same overused trope of ‘some bad guy wanting to steal/kill the dragons and Hiccup coming to the rescue’; a plot devise already done in HTTYD 2.

Even the dialogue has grown a little listless as the hero ‘kids’ have become either MORE annoying or just boring. Sure, there is some clever banter here and there and I did catch alot of witty character double-takes, something seldom seen in CGI animation. Overall, though, it still possess a great deal of fun and cleverness for what it has to offer, just don’t think too much about the howling plot holes and concentrate rather on the impeccable CGI. Personally, I’m glad they never made Toothless anthropomorphic and gave him a voice; that would have ruined this story of a boy and his pet dragon. Gotta admit, I’m gonna miss you, Toothless. *sniff*

The Secret of NIMH (1982)

Every now and then an animated movie comes out (that isn’t Disney or Pixar) that has a WOW factor of 10, and this film has it. Ex-Disney animator Don Bluth (okay, so it does has a “Disney” vibe to it) brilliantly adapted Robert C. O’Brien’s novel about a pack of intelligent mice on the run from humans… and themselves!

Outside in farmer Fitzgibbon’s field, there is a drama going on. Mrs. Brisby (voiced by Elizabeth Hartman), a timid widowed field mouse, lives in a cinder block with her children and has a problem; her littlest son, Timothy, has fallen ill. She visits the super-smart mouse Mr. Ages (Arthur Malet) for a cure, but discovers later that Farmer Fitzgibbons has started plowing early. Facing certain death (Timmy can’t be moved), she seeks advice from The Great Owl (John Carradine), who tells her to visit a group of rats that live beneath a rose bush on the farm and to ask for Nicodemus (Derek Jabobi), their wise and mystical leader.

Mrs. Brisby enters the rose bush and learns something amazing. The rats has acquired use of electricity and other special technology. She meets Justin (Peter Strauss), the friendly Captain of the Guard, and Jenner, (Paul Shenar) a ruthless, power-hungry rat opposed to Nicodemus. Mrs. Brisby also learns that her late husband, along with many of the rats, were part of a series of experiments at NIMH (National Institute of Mental Health). The experiments boosted their intelligence, enabling them to escape, as well as extending their lifespans. Nicodemus gives Mrs. Brisby a special amulet called “The Stone”, which gives magical power when its wearer is courageous.

As the rats are moving the Brisby cinder-block home during a thunderstorm, Jenner sabotages the ropes, causing the assembly to fly apart and kill Nicodemus. Mrs. Brisby tries to convince the rats that NIMH is coming and they must leave, but Jenner attacks her and attempts to steal the amulet. Justin rushes to Mrs. Brisby’s aid, but Jenner and he engage in a sword fight. As the two rats clash swords, the Brisby house slowly sinks in the mud and the Stone amulet AWAKES!

This was Bluth’s directorial debut and, for his first outing, hit it out of the park. Exceptionally rich in color and action, the story moves like nothing before it, with Bluth’s signature wild facial movements. As fantastic as this film is, diametrically opposed is how badly the sequel sucked. The Secret of NIMH 2: Timmy to the Rescue, which came out in 1998, was a joyless, soul-sucking, humorless travesty, having nothing to do with the original story or Don Bluth. People have committed suicide after having seen this sequel, it’s so bad. Don’t rent it. Don’t even say the title out loud. Just walk away… slowly.

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