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How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World review – running out of puff

All the excitement of the earlier films has been lost in this third outing for the animated series based on Cressida Cowell’s books

Here is the third and – we have to hope – the last in a franchise that could be renamed How to Drain Your Dragon. All the fire and lifeblood of this idea has been sucked out and we are left with something bland.

The first two films from 2010 and 2014, amiable enough, emerged during the 3D boom and the theme-park-type dragonback ride was an important part of the show. That novelty is now long gone. What we’re left with is screensaver cinema: a swirly succession of pretty pictures and colours. This insipid spectacle has nothing like the strong flavour of Cressida Cowell’s Milliganesque illustrations in her original books.

We are back with the Vikings and dragons on Berk Island, led by Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel), who has secret feelings for Astrid (America Ferrera). But now they are menaced by an evil dragon-catcher named Grimmel (F Murray Abraham) who looks a bit like the wicked younger brother of Anton Ego, the pompous food critic in Ratatouille and sounds the tiniest bit like Steve Carell’s Gru, from Despicable Me.

When this threat manifests itself, the story takes a slightly arbitrary turn, necessitating a Moses-like plan from Hiccup to lead his people to safety in some promised land or other, a narrative indulgence whose only real function is to defer the inevitable showdown with Grimmel.

In the end, we have some Jungle Book-type agonising about whether humans and dragons really can live together. Yet, by this stage, the options of their living together and not living together are equally dull.

• This story was amended on 31 January 2019 to correct the spelling of America Ferrera’s surname.

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