On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 21, 2019

It's been nearly a decade since audiences were first introduced to Jay Baruchel's Hiccup and his mythical friend, Toothless, but despite the long stretches of time in between each installment (four years in between the first and five years in between the second and third) writer/director Dean DeBlois only seems to take this time to hone each new story and the character arcs of each major player all the more. While the story specifics of the previous two installments tend to escape me what remains is the memory of the impact each film left on me; the first film rousing a sense of respect for being more than it had to be and the second a sense of appreciation for the ambition of the scope and scale in both its storytelling and visual prowess.

With this third and final installment, How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World, DeBlois beautifully rounds out the story and friendship of Hiccup and Toothless with another familiar set of story beats, but a wholly inventive way of connecting them that doesn't rely on the previous films for investment or emotional resonance, but this of course doesn't hurt it either. As with the whole of the trilogy, there is real risk, real cost, and a real edge associated with these films that one doesn't often see integrated into children's entertainment. This time around-in regards to Hiccup-DeBlois and co. touch on letting go and moving on while noting each of these things is a necessary part of maturing into a compassionate and level-headed leader whereas Toothless makes these same strides through being afforded the opportunity of a new life he doesn't have to feel guilty about wanting.

All well and good, of course, but The Hidden World really soars when it puts on display its command of the craft of movie-making and allows the moving pictures to do all the talking. The wordless sequence in which Toothless courts a new "light fury" is both breathtaking and entertaining, for adults and children alike, but more than anything it is simply lovely to experience as it is one of those moments where getting caught up in what is happening on screen isn't a choice; it simply sucks you in and you wait with bated breath hoping that Toothless somehow pulls this off. It didn't take long to realize how quiet the child-filled theater became when the power of this sequence became apparent. What more could one ask for out of a trilogy finale than for it to be both about growth and acceptance while at the same time reminding you what it's like to be a kid again? B+

Charming is the key word here. You will be charmed. The Upside is charming. Charmed in the sense not that The Upside will put you under a spell necessarily, but more in the sense of it being a pure pleasure; a delight, if you will. Many a foreign films are re-tooled into American stories so as to make the context more familiar and the circumstances more relatable/understandable, but oddly enough the 2011 French film, The Intouchables, might be the last foreign film to come to mind when considering what would benefit from a re-contextualization as it, by virtue of its broad and rather simple odd-couple premise, feels the least foreign in terms of beats and emotions relayed. Still, for one reason or another it was deemed a big enough hit overseas and therefore must have been doing enough right to make a stateside studio want to re-make it once more (it has already been re-made in India as well as having a Spanish-language re-make to boot) and so why not hire the likes of Walter White and the most reliable comic actor of the moment to bring it to a wider, English-speaking audience? Thus, The Upside was born and first premiered on the festival circuit back in the fall of 2017, but was shelved and sold off following the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations. Eventually bought by STX Entertainment, the studio is either hoping people overlook the time of year in which they are dumping this into theaters and simply trust the inspired pairing of Bryan Cranston and Kevin Hart or they are just trying to unload what is sure to make some money, but what they ultimately realize was always an unnecessary piece of cinema. And yet, unnecessary as it may be, the inspired pairing of Cranston and Hart is what makes director Neil Burger's (Limitless, The Illusionist) re-make of the film a film with genuine heart and even a little insightful substance from time to time rather than that of a film completely devoid of any charm or wit that exists solely as an opportunity to replicate a previous winning formula. The Upside is certainly formula and it goes without saying any seasoned movie-goer will know to expect every beat this hits, but that doesn't mean it's neither appealing nor endearing as it strokes its familiar elements to the point it is these charming qualities that stand out most. Full review here. Video review here. C

Vanessa Carlton still be gettin' them checks!

I mean, the karaoke sequence where Rebel Wilson, Adam Devine, and Priyanka Chopra pull off a full-on choreographed sequence to Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me)” is more than enough and all I could have ever hoped for from this movie; it's both a perfect parody of a rom-com musical number and a great musical number in and of itself. But then! But then...Isn't It Romantic marches on and continues to deliver a solid balance of cheap and earned laughs, some authentic emotional ties with the lessons its characters learn, and another musical number that is maybe not as memorable, but equally as fun. If for nothing else other than the chance to watch the rhythm-less Liam Hemsworth and Devine try and manage basic choreography.

In other words, this movie is...quite beguiling. B-

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