Dean DeBlois' How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World will miss out on so many Oscars that I am pre-empting my rant towards the Academy as we speak.
For this technical masterclass in sound, visuals and making dragons cute is simply delightful. Dean DeBlois has composed a trilogy so full of wonder, charm and adorable dragons that disliking it is just unfathomable to me: especially Toothless, whose demeanour and design are so penned full of the noise 'aww' that those who tell me he isn't cute are no longer on my contacts list. Also, did I mention dragons are cute?
Well they are, but they aren't cute enough (just barely though) to entirely redeem the flawed narrative, which is just a copy/paste of the first two films with some name changes - once again featuring Hiccup and friends as they, once again, battle a big-big bad-bad who, once again, hates dragons, once again.
While many films feel sluggish, The Hidden World moves with the absurd pace of a cheetah on adrenaline, and features a villain so monotone in his "personality" that the bulbous blob of blubber being fought in the first film outshines him, and that was literally just a fat dragon.
But by far the most egregious step backwards is the lack of stakes. It tries to act mature by teasing a bittersweet end, before losing the conviction to stand its ground. If this were Minions, where a banana is the pinnacle of both humour and emotional complexity, then I'd be indifferent towards it.
But these are family - not kids - films, supplying universal entertainment and overhanging threads of maturity throughout their prestigious run. And changing this admirable quality just to spare some kids a bucket of tears defines cop-out for me.
But as the saying goes; one step backwards, two-hundred steps forward.
This is a gorgeous world, with vibrant colours, unique designs and possibly the best 3D I've ever seen - though that may be because Spy Kids 3D was before my time.
Toothless and his adorable googly eyes transport us through this world emotionally, while some incredibly talented cinematographers and animators use sweeping wide-shots to truly emulate the sensation of flight: or what I assume it feels like ... I'm not a bird.
Hiccup, Astrid, Gobber and co. may all be engaging in their own ways (some more than others, as I've never wanted to slap an animated character like I did TJ Miller's Tuffnut), but Toothless is so good in his wordless role that he steals every scene he is in just by existing.
One could argue the relationship he has is a little cutesy and pandering, but it certainly warmed my cold heart: if nothing more than for how teenage-boy, socially-awkward and never-flirted-before-in-his-life Toothless is. Call me weird all you want - but I'm now rooting for two dragons to get married, and this film did that to me.
It never quite reaches the comedic or emotional heights of the first two instalments, but is satisfying nonetheless: hence the massive ear-to-ear grin on my face that got me some funny looks while I skipped (ok, maybe not that happy) out of the screening. Only they weren't from me fellow audience: as they were grinning almost as much as I was.