Balto Review

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A streetwise husky named Balto helps a snowbound Alaskan town in need of a diphtheria vaccine.


The latest animation feature from Steven Spielberg's Amblin stable is a true story set in the snowy wastes of Alaska where an outbreak of diphtheria is threatening a small town's children. The only way to get supplies of anti-toxin is by dog team. But when the mother of all blizzards leaves their sledge stranded, all hope seems lost.

Enter Balto (voiced by Bacon), a dog-wolf cross shunned by other dogs and townsfolk alike. Only the dusky, husky Jenna (Fonda) can see through the mange to the noble hound underneath. And when Jenna's little girl owner falls ill, Balto decides this is one breach worth stepping into, and he sets off into the wilderness. But Steel, Balto's rival for Jenna's heart, resents his interference and makes certain this is one walkies he won't return from.

With no cheesy songs to slow proceedings down and some barnstorming chase sequences, this is enchanting, highly enjoyable and impressively crafted (not least for its adventurous "camera work") and would have made a pretty fair live action film. Hoskins proves it's good to squawk as a loopy goose, Jim Cummings carves out a splendidly nasty villain and Donald Sinden splutters contentedly as a bumbling doctor. The only slight let-down is Phil Collins, piping up rather ineffectually as a demented polar bear.

Up to the standard of nearly any Disney stalwart, there'll be many a parent prickling with pride as Balto races back to save the poor sick girl and prove that every dog, even a husky, has his day.

Solid entertainment, but one can't help feeling that coming out a mere seven days after the dazzling Toy Story is going to consign Balto, undeservedly, to the dog house.