As parents and film fans, we want to share the best of the cinematic world with our kids. But when you haven’t seen a new movie yet, how do you know if you should take your kids? Obviously every kid is different, and they change with age; the same child who had to be escorted, weeping, out of Guardians of the Galaxy might completely fall in love with Deadpool two years later (true story). But it’s also true that movie marketing can be misleading – no-one wants to be that mom who had to leave Pan’s Labyrinth with an emotionally-scarred 10-year-old. With this ongoing feature, we’ll aim to offer some loose, spoiler-free, age-by-age guidelines as to what parents might expect from new features marketed to families, so you can make the best judgment call for your youngsters.
It’s been almost a decade since moviegoers were introduced to Berk, a land of vikings with Scottish, Canadian, and American accents who were constantly battling dragons. Loosely based on a series of novels by Cressida Cowell, the movie followed young Hiccup (voiced by Jay Baruchel) as he struggled to meet the expectations of his father, Chief Stoic (Gerard Butler). Hiccup ended up transforming Berk by becoming the first viking to befriend and train a dragon, Toothless, rather than killing it on sight.
The movie charmed audiences and critics alike, as did its sequel which deepened the story and followed Hiccup’s coming of age as he was forced to take on more responsibility and by movie’s end became more at ease in his leadership role. Now the third movie is here to wrap up the trilogy, as Hiccup grapples with how best to protect his people and their now-beloved dragon companions from a new and more dangerous threat.
The film maintains the bright, shiny, colourful palette of the first two, and amps up its animation game with truly breathtaking scenes of dragons performing aerial stunts, and marvellously naturalistic rendering of elements like clouds, sand, and water that contrast with the impossible physiognomy of most of the dragons (and, let’s face it, most of the humans). It suffers a little bit from sequel fatigue as the main villain is kind of a retread of the second film (bad guy who traps dragons must be stopped), but it has imagination and picks up in the last half with an plot twist that no-one in our theatre saw coming.
So, should you take your kids to see it?
Absolutely yes. The screening we attended was full of families of all ages, and the movie definitely has enough going on for the bulk of the runtime to keep young ones’ attention. Unlike the first two films (SPOILER WARNING) there’s no major loss suffered, but I must warn you that the finale is heartrending and tear-inducing. Have tissues handy.
Tweens and Teens
Definitely yes, especially if your older kids have grown up with the first two movies. This is a really nice conclusion to the trilogy, and the characters have aged very well. More than one teen in our screening was emotionally impacted by the ending, but there is a very hopeful coda at the very end that is comforting.
I’m a fan of these films, but to be brutally honest, there’s not a whole lot of complexity here plot-wise and the jokes are aimed squarely at kid-level. I mostly enjoyed the action scenes and animation and didn’t really engage with the film until the last half hour, when the action really ramped up and the characters had an emotional arc to grapple with. Take your kids, enjoy the visuals, and be there to hug them in case they cry at the ending.
Wee time: The movie is a pretty tight 1:44, with plenty of action and gorgeous scenes of dragons in flight; but if your youngster absolutely can’t hold it, there are longish speeches at the :30 and :50 marks that could be missed. (Note that these timestamps are from the start of the actual movie, not the trailers and countless ads that run before.)
Bottom line: Unmissable if your kids grew up with these movies. If they didn’t, wait until it comes out on streaming, and have a triple bill at home.
Jenny Bullough is a movie fan and mom based in Toronto. She has missed the middle 5 minutes of every kids’ movie because of her child’s small bladder, and she let her children watch Deadpool at an inappropriately young age and stands by her choices.