How to train your expectations for the concluding chapter in the How to Train Your Dragon franchise: step one, lower them. I was dispirited to discover what a disappointing final chapter The Hidden World comes across, especially considering the previous movies, including the 2014 sequel, are good to great. At its core it’s always been a tale of prejudice and family, dressing up a simple boy-and-his-dog story with fantasy elements. It also presents a world with danger and cost; even the fist film ended with the main character, Hiccup, losing a freaking foot. He loses his father in the second film. It’s a series that has grown naturally with heart, imagination, and a real sense of stakes. This is why I’m sad to report that the third film feels like a different creative team made it. The villain is a repeat of the second film, a dragon hunter with little to be memorable over. The plot is very redundant, stuck in an endless loop of capture, escape, capture, escape, etc. The addition of the new lady dragon is a perfunctory means to drive a wedge between Hiccup and toothless, his dragon. The lady dragon has no personality and needs rescuing too often. Her inclusion relates to a rather regressive emphasis on the need for coupling and marriage. The titular Hidden World amounts to a grand total of five minutes of screen time. The action starts off well involving the various colorful side characters but misses out on that sense of danger that defined the other movies. It feels goofy and safe and listless. How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World is a sizeable disappointment and coasts on the emotional investment of the first two movies. You’ll feel something by the end, sure, but it’s because of the hard work of others and not this movie.
Nate’s Grade: C
The ladies that inhabit The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2 are not the same group of gals that charmed the pants off of me in the 2005 original film. This time the foursome is feeling some strain because they’ve all graduated and moved onto insanely ludicrous positions. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn) is making movies at NYU; Lena (Alexis Bledel) is studying art at the Rhode Island School of Design; Bridget (Blake Lively) is assisting with an archeological dig in Turkey; and Carmen (America Ferrera) is at the Brown theater department where she gets the lead in a summer production. Let’s face it, these are not the down-to-earth girls that were presented before. Was it too much to ask that one of the girls have a modestly plausible scenario? The drama is again split into two camps, the petty and comedic (Lena must choose between boyfriends, Carmen has to practice her lines) and the melodramatic (Bridget still has to deal with her mom’s suicide, Tibby has a pregnancy scare). The movie doesn’t work this go-round because every beat of the plot is wholly predictable (of course the guy Lena flirts with in art class will end up being the nude model), and much of the conflict is just inane. The characters act in stupid and contrived ways because the plot demands it. Sure the condom broke but can’t Tibby get the morning after pill at least? Sisterhood 2 also packs a baby birth, reunion between granddaughter and the grandmother she never knew existed, and a climactic trip to Greece for some serious girl power. It’s drama overload and lacks the notable sincerity of the first film.
Nate’s Grade: C