There’s nothing specifically wrong with “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World,” the third and apparently final installment in the animated franchise — it’s a serviceable and audience-friendly bit of computer-animated storytelling, but whose craft and artistry are emotionally inert.
Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) is now the leader of Berk, the Viking/dragon community where he fills the role of his late father, the chieftain Stoick (voiced by Gerard Butler in flashbacks). Hiccup and his pals, including his lady love Astrid (voiced by America Ferrara), ride their dragons to raid barges to free imprisoned dragons and bring them home to the increasingly crowded Berk.
Hiccup, partnered with his faithful “night fury” dragon Toothless, worries that Berk is not only more crowded but also a growing target for dragon hunters. He decides the solution is to find what his father dreamed of locating, a hidden world beyond the horizon where dragons can live in safety.
While Hiccup tries to locate this hidden world, the dragon-hunting forces are regrouping behind a ruthless hunter named Grimmel (voiced by F. Murray Abraham). Grimmel has hunted and killed every other “night fury,” and aims to make Toothless his final trophy — and he has a captive white dragon, a “light fury,” to lure Toothless away from Hiccup and his Berk friends.
Director-writer Dean DeBlois, now responsible for three movies based on Cressida Cowell’s book series, formulates some solid set pieces — particularly the cleverly staged fight scenes and some charming bits where Toothless clumsily courts this potential girlfriend.
But for all of that, and some gorgeously colorful moments inside the hidden world, the third “How to Train Your Dragon” film just lies there, creating an emotional dead zone. Maybe it’s just as well these training sessions are over.
‘How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World”
Opens Friday, Feb. 22, at theaters everywhere. Rated PG for adventure action and some mild rude humor. Running time: 104 minutes.