Starring: Kevin Bacon, Bridget Fonda and Bob Hoskins
Directed by: Simon Wells
The story of Balto, a dog that is also half wolf and not accepted by the other dogs in the town of Nome, Alaska. With the spread of an illness during a bad blizzard, the town is left isolated and unable to get the medicine required to treat the illness. A team of sled dogs are sent to retrieve the medicine and this is where Balto has his chance to try and fit in and belong.
This is the first animated movie I’ve watched in 2018 and I can’t believe it’s taken this long as my wife loves animated movies and I’ve watched a great deal in the last few years since meeting her. She watched Balto a few weeks back while I was in work and recommended I should watch it so today was the day that I was able to get to it.
Balto is loosely based on true events which took place in Nome, Alaska in the twenties. An epidemic spread across the little town and due to severe weather conditions the medicine was unable to be delivered. So a team of sled dogs made the arduous journey to ensure that the required medicine was delivered to the patients who were in desperate need. This sort of story isn’t one usually associated with children’s animated movies and the tone was a lot more serious than I had expected which was good for me as I found I could enjoy the drama of it all a little more without the usual silliness that comes with cartoons.
Balto is a story about inspiration and breaking down prejudices as the half dog half wolf, who isn’t accepted by either side as one of their own, struggles to find a place where he fits in. The story was well told and the characters we meet along the way such as; Boris, Jenna, Muk and Luk really add a sense of depth to Balto’s persona. Boris, a goose, who is voiced by the late Bob Hoskins, is Balto’s closest ally and offers a lot of wisdom during the his journey and also provides a lot of the comedy for the movie. Balto’s rival Steele is the best sled dog in town and he refuses to accept help from the half breed and will stop at nothing to make sure Balto doesn’t become the hero of the story. The way Steele was portrayed was very similar to Scar in the Lion King. While Steele is no where near as memorable, he plays a devious and cynical character whose true intentions are clear to the audience but not to the people within the movie until the conclusion.
Kevin Bacon voiced Balto and I feel he was a little flat and didn’t really do anything for the character, although I’m a little biased as for the longest time I’ve really disliked Kevin Bacon. I like some of his movies like Tremors, Mystic River and Apollo 13 but I generally find him rather annoying and one dimensional to watch. There were moments in the movie where I just felt some of the things that happened were a little stupid and unrealistic. Although it’s a kids movie so realism will always take a bit of a hit, I’d just like to have been able to change a few scenes so they made a bit more logical sense. Also I never really found the need to add a romance angle within the story, it’s a kids movie about sled dogs, why has there got to be any romance involved?
Overall, Balto was a pretty good animated movie which has likeable characters and an interesting plot which is a little different than your run of the mill kids movie. A film that has been somewhat overlooked in favour of larger Disney productions but this is definitely worth checking out regardless of if you have a child or not. Also, the fact that the story was based upon true events makes the movie all the more enjoyable.