THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT Copyright (c) 1995, Landmark Communications, Inc. DATE: Sunday, December 31, 1995 TAG: 9512290084 SECTION: DAILY BREAK PAGE: E8 EDITION: FINAL TYPE: Movie Review SOURCE: BY MAL VINCENT, MOVIE CRITIC LENGTH: Medium: 76 lines
IF IT IS true that every dog has his day, as Bill Shakespeare claimed, then Balto deserves at least half a day. Balto is half-wolf, half-dog and all movie star.
The animated adventures of his dog-sled trek across Alaska is currently in theaters. ``Balto'' goes entirely for action as the much-threatened hero fights a bear, dangerous ice, snowstorms, a bully dog named Steel, and even an avalanche.
This cartoon aims for excitement, perhaps to a degree that will frighten the smallest ones. Don't drop them off alone. Stay with them. They need you to get through this.
There are times when we thought that Balto deserved a few breaks and that the movie could lighten up. All this is a bit much for any hero, much less the audience.
It is rather loosely based on a true story. If you don't believe me, look on the east side of Central Park the next time you're in New York City and you'll find a statue of the real Balto. (It is recommended to go looking only in daylight.)
Balto was the lead dog in a team that carried a diphtheria antitoxin 600 miles from Nenana to Nome, Alaska, during the epidemic of 1925.
In fact, the real life story of Balto is more dramatic than the film.
Balto and his colleagues were reportedly put in a sideshow after their 1925 fame, only to be rescued by the schoolchildren of Nome, who raised money to free them. They ended up in the Cleveland Zoo.
Balto died in 1933, but, before that, the Balto Memorial Committee had commissioned the statue that now stands in Central Park. (Wouldn't all this make a nifty true-life dog movie? Perhaps it'll someday get made.)
You'll find no facts quite this somber in the film. Balto, with the voice of Kevin Bacon, is the outcast of Nome. He's regarded as untrustworthy because of his wolf streak. No mushers will use him in a team, even though he does win a race against the other fatty dogs (most of whom look like linebackers to his track-star trim).
He's often framed by the evil Steel, who competes with him for the attention of the winsome Jenna (with the cloyingly sweet voice of Bridget Fonda).
Bob Hoskins is the voice of Boris the goose, who cracks puns, pointing out that he has ``people bumps.'' Hoskins, currently on view as J. Edgar Hoover in ``Nixon,'' has to work hard to fill in the humor.
The animated film is framed by a real-life segment in which Miriam Margoyles (so good in ``Age of Innocence'') plays a grandmother who was the little girl struck by diphtheria in the animated story.
At one hour and 14 minutes, it's just about the right length.
If there are antsy out-of-school or pre-school children in your home who have wrecked the furniture, this might be a suitable and unpretentious choice - particularly if they've already seen ``Toy Story.'' ILLUSTRATION: Photo
Balto, right, is smitten by the town's beautiful husky in the
animated action-adventure ``Balto.''
Cast: Miriam Margoyles with the voices of Kevin Bacon, Bridget
Fonda, Bob Hoskins, Phil Collins
Director: Simon Wells
MPAA rating: G (some tense scenes, including a mean bear attack)
Mal's rating: Two 1/2 stars
Locations: Cinemark, Greenbrier 13 in Chesapeake; Janaf, Main
Gate in Norfolk; Columbus, Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach