Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Movie Review: Balto

Title: Balto
Author: Disney
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.

My Thoughts
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.


Lurai said...

Yay, Balto!! I grew up on this story, among others. :D

Nice review of it, by the way. :) You do have a big point with the predictable plot; I've been wondering about that with books as well lately. The common theme is always the hero overcoming challenges, etc., etc., but I guess certain detail/circumstances within the plots can change or something. (?)

Anyway, super glad you reviewed it! It is a cute story and fun for the younger crowd. If you want to see an animal movie where at the very least the animals don't talk much, I highly recommend Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron. There is a romance, but it's a good, solid one I believe, and one of the most beautiful parts of the movie is that the horses don't really speak and don't need to. I think I cry every time I watch that thing. :)

Oh, and by the way, that wolf *SPOILER HERE DON'T READ IF YOU HAVEN'T SEEN THE SECOND MOVIE* is a spirit, and *spoiler* his mother. Or something like that? I think she turned into a spirit but was regular before? Anyway she's cool. :)

Thanks again for the fun review! :)

Maria Gianna said...

I am so glad you enjoyed the review.
Yes, I believe the plot is often the same even if it does change a bit here and there. And while I agree that most stories are about a character encountering challenges and dealing with them, I think the similar-plot thing goes even further with Disney animal movies.

Thank you for the recommendation. I will have to check that movie out. Horses and dogs hold special places in my heart, so I couldn't turn that one down.

Ahh. I wondered if that was the case, with it being a spirit. Thank you for clarifying that for me.

Thank you for reading!

Lurai said...

Yes, you definitely do have a point there with Disney movies I think. And yet we still love 'em. :D

Glad you'll check out Spirit! It's an amazing movie with great music too. I don't think it was done by Disney...

Yup, glad to clarify that bit; you find it out more in the second movie. :)

grandma jane said...

Maria, you mentioned not caring much for anthropomorphized animals in stories (presumed you meant animated and others). Have you read "Watership Down" by Richard Adams? Probably a classics by now. Might be little value in reading for this blog as it's not for younger kids, but I think you may change your mind re animals expressing emotions in a story such as this.

Maria Gianna said...

grandma jane,
I haven't read "Watership Down". I'll have to check into it. Thanks for the recommendation!