With animated vigor, Balto is the ultimate dog story: An unwanted, ill-treated dog turns out to be the town hero when he succeeds where others fail. In New York’s Central Park, a grandmother relates Balto’s legend to her granddaughter as they stand near a commemorative marker. Switching to animation and to 1925 Nome, Alaska, a little girl named Rosey has just a received a dog sled from her parents. She promptly harnesses her well-bred dog, Jeena, to the sled. They rush to the street to watch the annual dog sled race and see Steele, the lead dog, flash through the finish line. Soon, Steele fights with Balto, a half-breed dog-wolf, but both Rosey and Jeena sense Balto is a special animal. When a diphtheria epidemic sweeps through Nome, Rosey becomes dangerously ill. The doctor’s supply of medicine is quickly depleted and a way must be found to obtain more. But a tremendous blizzard is raging and the closest source is 600 miles away. Based on a true story, this humorous, yet suspenseful and clever film will be enjoyed by the entire family. Bring plenty of tissues too, because it’s also a tear-jerker of sorts.
To the movie makers’ credit, there is scarcely anything inappropriate in this gem of a film. A humorous character, Boris the goose, remarks, “Kick some …” but he doesn’t finish the statement. Boris also gives Balto sage advice and encouragement at different times. Other animals, including the cuddly polar bear, learn something about themselves when they rescue Balto from drowning. Balto, too, grows in his understanding and appreciation of his own uniqueness. Some dog fights and narrow escapes as dogs fall off cliffs and face other harrowing dangers may upset sensitive youngsters. However, they always manage to survive without serious injury so they can continue their life-saving mission. BALTO is a feel-good family movie about heroes coming in different shapes and sizes and that we all have special talents that make us worthy and unique.