Genre: Historical Fiction
My Rating: ***
Official Rating: G
Age Group: 6+
Balto is half wolf and half dog. This doesn't go over well with the dogs of the small town he lives near, nor does it go over well with the humans. So he lives on the outskirts of town with a talking goose and two rather dense baby polar bears who don't know how to swim, all the while entertaining romantic feelings for a pure-bred husky named Jenna. Balto's life is simple, he's rather reckless, and pretty much nothing ever happens to him. But Balto admires the sled dogs. He wants to be one.
When an especially harsh winter arrives, the children fall seriously ill, and the doctor runs out of medicine, well, something has to be done. A select team of sled dogs will be sent out to a neighboring town to get medicine for the dying children. Balto joins the races to determine the dog team, and wins, but is turned away because of his wolf-blood.
The team sets out, and Balto is left to watch Jenna suffer as her girl gets sicker and sicker.
Things don't go as planned, and Balto ends up having to play the hero. Out in the wilderness all alone, only his wolfish blood can save him.
Will he accept this?
Word of Warning
Steel is a nasty dog who is full of himself and will lie to get whatever he wants. The other sled dogs admire him but eventually he does get justice--which is exactly what he doesn't want. He's selfish, determined to play the hero, cruel, seems to go crazy, and tries to kill Balto.
Dogs fight, but though teeth sink into other dogs (and bears), no blood is drawn. A few dogs fall off cliffs, but all make it. Balto almost drowns. A bear tries to kill various members of Balto's company.
A strange wolf who may or may not be a spirit (but hey, it does leave paw prints) appears when all seems lost.
Children get sick and though we're never told they are going to die, we see a sobering scene of a man building little coffins and standing them up next to a regularly sized one.
This is your typical Disney-animal-hero movie. We have an outcast who falls in love with the only in-group member who is open-minded. We have the toady, the animal that might have a mental disorder, a wise guardian-like companion who is ultimately undermined by his charge's instincts, and a few other characters thrown in.
As I was watching it, I wondered, does Disney have a set plot for all animal stories that they just change the names for? I mean, sure, the plot is a little different, but surely they have a set of characters who undergo very slight changes depending upon the movie.
Aside from that, however, I found this to be a relatively good movie. Personally, I am not a big fan of animated animal movies. Don't get me wrong, I love animals and actually plan to go to vet school in the future. But there's something about animals having a romance (which is technically impossible) and just talking in general that doesn't sit well with me. I love animals in movies and books and include many very strong animal characters in my own writings, but the portrayal of animals as though they are equal to humans just gives me the jitters.
Still, even though this movie was predictable, I found myself waiting on the edge of my seat in the dramatic moments, just waiting to see what would happen. But then I'd laugh at myself and report exactly what would happen. I was right, but somehow that didn't take away from the excitement. I was quite impressed by this.
As a whole, a great movie, but probably not worth watching again.