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  • Writer's pictureS.J.

Quick Reviews: 'How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World', 'Cats' | Fantasy Sequel, Musical

A young man petting his dragon, cat-human-hybrids with dancing poses
How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World (L), Cats (R)


Solid trilogies have proven to be difficult to deliver through the history of film as many like for example 'The Godfather', Sam Raimi’s 'Spider-Man' and 'Star Wars' certainly have tried. Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, directed and written by Dean DeBlois, is the closure to the trilogy about a young man Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and a dragon (Toothless), expanding the story this time for an adventure to find a safe haven for all dragons to live peacefully in. The film manages to conclude the series in a fairly fashionable way, closer to Christopher Nolan’s 'Batman' and 'The Lord Of The Rings' rather than to those previously mentioned.

With each three films the level of animation has stepped up immensely from the previous one. There’s a name that you might miss in the credits who probably had the most to do with this: Roger Deakins. It’s likely thanks to him that on top of the great character designs, the setting looks even better and more vibrant. Everything in this viking world feels alive, moving and detailed so make sure your eyes are on the screen whenever the dragons take flight. Baruchel continues to be an incredible asset in the vocal booth just like Craig Ferguson (Gobber) and America Ferrera (Astrid, Hiccup's wife) are as well. Baruchel brought a distinctive and an emotive voice to a film series that didn’t even need a superb voice acting to be good.

The last 30 minutes of this is the payoff that any trilogy or franchise deserves by being so heartfelt, tear-jerking and in line with everything that happened before. The story clearly mirrors the premise of the first film where the dragons were hunted just to be hunted.

While the movie does stay in line with its themes, there still are some (avoid the obvious pun) obstacles the writing creates for itself. Ruffnut (Kristen Wiig) and Tuffnut (Justin Rupple) are overbearingly used as they are the type of characters that deserve a minimum amount of lines to be useful but here they have way too much to say. There is also weird banter between Valka (Cate Blanchett) and Snotlout (Jonah Hill) which is so left-field that I don’t know why it was not cut. One problem I had with the film was the score by John Powell which definitely isn’t worthy of a ''frowney'' but it’s not quite up to the level of the first two where it was really bombastic.

Smileys: Ending, Jay Baruchel, cinematography, story

Frowneys: Dialogue

The Hidden World shows that the story never stopped soaring through the skies.


Hiccup touching the head of Toothless the dragon
Universal Pictures


Cats, oh Cats, that sweet cinematic meme of 2019, as directed by Tom Hooper. I’m going to be honest: when I was going to hit the start button I was genuinely expecting to just be having fun watching people sing flamboyantly whilst looking like cats. Another thing that was on my mind was that there would be something to distract me also considering that there are some talented actors like Judi Dench (as Old Deuteronomy) and Ian McKellen (Gus) being directed to invoke cat-like behaviour here. I was mortified to find out that I was not having fun after a while.

It’s really hard to point out anything redeemable about this. You could probably say that the production design is fine but the designer or art director really don’t get interesting sets to work with. Cinematography is also fine but the film’s colour palette is so bland and it relies on quite a bit of CGI. Jennifer Hudson as Grizabella doesn’t under- or over-perform the only memorable song ‘Memory’ and newcomer Francesca Hayward as Victoria dances beautifully the whole time. I really wish that there would’ve been at least some funny cat videos in the closing credits so it wouldn’t have felt so sour in the end.

Keeping in mind that this movie was done in 2019, it’s astonishing that the visual effects are so atrocious. Hayward’s Victoria is the only one that doesn’t look like a MS Paint furry suit as everything from the design to shapes to rendering is painful to look at. It’s unfathomable that they got through the studio system and that the poor artists had to sit for hours drawing and animating them. If I understand correctly, the ”story” in this film isn’t different from the stage play (I haven’t seen it). Whatever the case is, that was a blatant mistake as the ”story” of a cat talent contest to win a new life is worth only one or two scenes, not for a whole feature length movie.

You could also feel sorry for some of the actors—mainly Hayward, McKellen and Dench—but there are several bad performances, notably by James Corden (Bustopher Jones), Idris Elba (Macavity) and Naoimh Morgan (Rumpleteazer). One last sin the movie commits is being flat-out boring: it starts, ''cat-humans'' appear, nothing happens, people sing, it ends. Maybe it’s a money laundering scheme.

Smileys: No

Frowneys: VFX, story, acting, soundtrack, screenplay

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Cat-human hybrids dancing
Universal Pictures

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