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Remember when characters in movies had quiet moments where they just gazed into each other’s eyes and we watched them fall in love? Think Superman and Lois Lane flying through the night. Or remember when the climax of the movie didn’t center around destroying a city? Robin Hood didn’t save the world. He and the Merry Men just had to fight everyone in the castle.

Those movies still get made. They just look different now, because rather than Technicolor they’re digital animation. The final chapter in the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy, The Hidden World, has everything the classic adventure films had with all the freedom to fly in the cartoon world.

A year has passed since the events of How to Train Your Dragon 2. Hiccup (Jay Baruchel), along with his Night Fury dragon Toothless, has led his people to create a dragon/Viking utopia. While the dragon riders are far from perfect, they’ve become fairly efficient at rescuing dragons from hunters and providing a safe haven in the land of Berk. Unfortunately, they’ve become so efficient that Berk is overcrowded, and one clumsy dragon can send buildings toppling like dominos.

As leader, Hiccup has to do something. But before he can set a course he learns that a famed dragon hunter named Grimmel (F. Murray Abraham) is coming to destroy Berk and kill Toothless, as he has all the rest of his species. With two problems to solve, Hiccup turns to his late father’s journals and determines to relocate his people to the Hidden World, the original home of the dragons that lies beyond the edge of the world.

The themes here are bigger than just “growing up,” as The Hidden World is willing to take on the issues of love and living in community. As we grow and change, our relationships with those close to us inevitably have to adapt. While growth is wonderful and exciting, change is hard. Big stuff for a dragon cartoon.

Writer/Director Dean DeBlois is wise enough to understand that making a successful children’s movie doesn’t require nonstop action or gross-out gags. There are slow, tender moments between Toothless and a new dragon, a female Light Fury, who is his opposite in every way. Their scenes are played first for humor and then to quietly reflect the wonder of new love.

At the climax, the action returns with swashbuckling thrills on ships before our dragon-riding hero and the villain takes to the sky. The following chase leads to the first of several self-sacrificial moments that define the story. Christian viewers may resonate with the lesson here, that acts of bravery and selfless love are about doing what’s best for another, not ourselves. DeBlois isn’t simply leading us to the end of the movie, but the conclusion of the trilogy.

While many feel that The Hidden World is a weak ending to an otherwise strong series, the final chapter in the story of Hiccup and Toothless is still a fun ride. However, the questions that it leaves in the minds of little ones (and grown-ups, too) are what truly give it value. (DreamWorks)

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