“How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” brings the wildly popular animated adventure trilogy to a satisfying conclusion. Hiccup and his faithful dragon Toothless are forced to lead the Viking villagers to a new home when an evil dragon hunter brings an armada to enslave the flying reptiles. While the visuals and action are every bit as spectacular as you might expect, the real surprise is the story. It’s actually quite moving. John Powell’s lush score is a big plus, too, complimenting the impressive visuals with an evocative atmosphere. The filmmakers didn’t quit while they were ahead. They timed it just right.
“Fighting With My Family” is a very pleasant surprise. This funny and heartfelt comedy tells the true story of Raya Knight, a British teenage girl who, through grit and determination, became a WWE Superstar named Paige. Florence Pugh plays Paige, the young girl mentored by Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and trained by Vince Vaughn. Writer/director Stephen Merchant and a spot-on cast give this Rocky-style underdog tale enough humanity to overcome some of the sports movie clichés that are inherent in the story. You don’t have to know a piledriver from a cactus clothesline to enjoy it. It’s strange that a movie about scripted matches has such genuine emotion. “Fighting With My Family” is a real crowd-pleaser.
Also opening this week, “Run the Race” is a faith-based movie about the strains and bonds of athletic brothers. “Arctic” is a survival drama about a man stranded in the Arctic after an airplane crash. Mads Mikkelsen stars. “The Wandering Earth” is a Chinese sci-fi opus about the attempt to move Earth when the Sun is about to become a red giant. It’s one of the biggest hits in Chinese cinema history. “The Changeover” is a supernatural thriller from New Zealand.