on December 22, 1995 by Carole Glines
The excellence of Disney's "The Lion King" and "Toy Story" spoils animation audiences for anything less, so when Steven Spielberg's Amblin checks in with "Balto" it seems a letdown: a derivative talking-animal movie that borrows heavily from Mouse House classics without being nearly as good.
Based on a true event, "Balto" concerns a dog who risks his life to bring diptheria medicine to storm-stranded Nome, Alaska, in 1925. An outcast because he's part wolf, Balto (voiced by Kevin Bacon) fights for the love of a female dog, Jenna (Bridget Fonda), against canine rival Steele (Jim Cummings). When the arrogant Steele, a sled-team champion, tries to prevent Balto from transporting the antitoxin, the heroic half-husky must use all his wits to save the day.
Like Simba in "The Lion King," Balto is accompanied by comic sidekicks, here an overprotective Russian snow goose (Bob Hoskins) and a couple of cute polar bears (both by Phil Collins). But the trio is so blandly drawn you forget what they looked like as soon as the movie ends. Regarding the voice work, Hoskins' adopted Slavic brogue is often difficult to understand, concealing many of his quips, and Collins' British intonation makes him an odd choice. Bacon and Fonda do an adequate job but, for those moviegoers who've seen "Lady and the Tramp," they're no Lady or Tramp. Still, this is a sizable step above Saturday-morning fare, and some scenes--a grizzly bear attack, a cave scene in which stalactites plummet toward our hero--offer substantial thrills. Voices of Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda and Jim Cummings. Directed by Simon Wells. Written by Cliff Ruby & Elana Lesser and Roger S.H. Schulman & David Steven Cohen. A Universal release. Animation. Rated G. Running time: 70 min.
Tags: Voices of Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda and Jim Cummings, Directed by Simon Wells, Written by Cliff Ruby & Elana Lesser and Roger S.H. Schulman, David Steven Cohen, Universal, Animation

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