animated cartoon Balto III: Wings of Change © Universal

Reviews for Balto III: Wings of Change

2.67 stars / 12 ratings
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Juuchan17's avatar
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Juuchan17's Review

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posted: Aug 08, 2013
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[NOTE: This is a re-revamped review, as my opinions over time have changed since my first review that was posted nearly 8 years ago [and a follow-up from a couple of years ago]. Be warned, this will get lengthy.

Also, POTENTIAL SPOILERS AHEAD! Just a quick heads-up if you haven't seen it yet... but you should have seen it by now.]

So... all good things come in threes, right? Apparently the first sequel, "Wolf Quest", did so well in the selling department that Universal Cartoon Studios began work on a third film. I'll admit that again, I was excited. Seeing little sneak peeks of screencaps, concept art, clips and trailers from overseas [because they got the film before the US did], and the developing DVD cover art wasn't enough to whet my appetite for more wolfdog adventures... so by the time the film debuted two days before its DVD release, I was pumped to see the end result of the trilogy. At first, I did like it... but then the following views made me like it less and less.

Where its predecessor sequel was a risk-taker, this finale was a easily-predictable 'safe' film that I wish tried harder to be interesting like the first two films instead of something simple and dumbed-down for kids.

You don't get what I mean? Well, let's get to the plot of the final Balto movie, "Balto III: Wings of Change".

The movie takes place in 1928, three years since the events of movie one. Balto is suddenly entranced by a strange plane and wonders what it would be like to fly, while one of his Jenna-clone sons, Kodi [short for Kodiak], is working hard on a US Mail-delivery team, hoping to one day become lead dog like his old man. But, as the title states, changes are coming for the dogs... and when the plane's pilot suggests a race against the dog team to see who can deliver mail faster, the livelihoods of the sled dogs are at stake, and they seek Balto out to lead them to victory.

Oh, and there's Stella, a busty goose with a crush on Boris, who now reveals that he has a fear of heights.

Does this side-story have anything to do with the dog-sledding plot?

Spoiler answer: YEP. Very much a YEP.
Non-spoiler answer: ...Not really, at least not until the start of the race.

Okay, so... where do I start?

The animation is actually... pretty good for a DTV release. It's an improvement from "Wolf Quest", though it's not the theatrical-quality like was seen in "Balto". The character movements and walk/run cycles are quite fluid, except for some scenes where it was less realistic and more cartoony. The designs for the characters was much better than before, the colors and shading are really good, and Balto got his yellow eyes back! There are more CGI shots and angles in the film, but like "Wolf Quest", the backgrounds are actually quite stunning to look at. This is a definite plus for the film.

But I was expecting a good story, given that Universal managed to get the original writers for "Balto" [Elana Lesser and Cliff Ruby, who now write the majority of the DTV Barbie movies] for the ending film, but I was disappointed to see that the basic story was... weak and safe. It did return to the subject of dog-sledding and some minor characters made cameo appearances early on, so I'll give props for those shout-outs to the fans. Also, this story, like "Wolf Quest", focuses on the concept of change and lacks an actual villain. The plot allows the natural changes in life to be the antagonist, and that is an amazing feat in any DTV sequel/midquel/actual non-DTV movie in general for kids. However, if what I had heard about Steele being in this movie had actually happened [in which he has to assist Balto, his former rival, in the climax], I may have given this movie more credit for connecting the first and for actually ending Steele's character arc with possibly a chance at redemption three years after his fall from grace. Seriously, why didn't this happen? The best opportunity was truly missed for this film, writers.

At least there is some historical factors in this film's story with the US Mail Service in a circa-1928 Alaskan Territory [Alaska was not a state yet here], so it's good to know that there is some actual history and not just a sorta kid-friendly "based on history" film like "Balto" was. The battle between mail teams and airplane delivery is actually a real thing, and I was pleasantly surprised how nice it was to have this added.

Now for the characters... and again, I'll start with the older ones. They weren't all bad, but they weren't all an improvement from the first sequel.

Balto, our main lead, is... all obsessed about flight here. I'm not sure why, but I swear it has something to do with the guy flying his plane near Nome. It's really cute to see him like this, just like we see his love for racing in the first movie. He also shows more character and more emotion than in the previous movie [probably due to better animation accompanying his voice], though you know that despite his personal doubts, he's going to try his best to be the hero that his fellow dogs know and admire. Other than that, Balto is still rather weak and can come off as 'unlikeable' by the second half of the movie, though he tries to redeem himself by being the hero. Again, Maurice LaMarche voices the half-breed Balto, and his voice is actually the best Balto yet - it's an improvement!

Jenna is still voiced by Jodi Benson, but at least they give her more lines this go-around. This also is an improvement, but her character again does nothing to really help the plot except for her to be the encouraging mate for our hero and stay behind to worry and not join the fun. The sequels have't been good for you, have they, Jenna? At least she gets one redeeming moment, but I'm getting ahead of myself.

Charles Fleischer and Kevin Schon reprise their roles as Boris and Muk/Luk respectively, though the latter doesn't really make any progress plot-wise until the second half. Boris, on the other hand, gets a whole subplot with a love interest... and his only real purpose is as an unnecessarily-comical role to to set up a second-half conflict. The gander even gets a

Speaking of 'love interest', let's talk about Stella. As a new character with the voice of Jean Smart, she adds some feminine tone to the film, though she might come off as too sexy for young kids. She even sings and flirts with Boris, hoping he'll 'come fly with her'... if you know what I mean. *ahem* Yes, this is still a kids movie that's rated for General Audiences. I'll admit that I highly disliked her character from the first viewing, but by the second half when a real crisis occurs, she actually is willing to do something to help, and that sort of redeems her as a useful new character. Lately, I am willing to give her some sort of respect for just the second half of the main plot alone.

Kodi, Balto's son, is another character we're introduced to, and unfortunately, we don't get enough time to know him as well as we did with Aleu in "Wolf Quest". Sean Astin gives him a good voice, but he would have been an interesting character if he'd been given the right amount of screentime. Still, he's a decent young character that isn't as whiny as Aleu, but you can tell that he's still got a lot to learn due to his reactions to the situations that occur with his team and between him and his father.

Other new characters include: Mel, a worrywort terrier that lives with the postman; Dipsy [Kathy Najimy], a bottomless-pit hound dog; Duke [Keith Carradine], the pilot of the plane that takes a interest in Balto when he takes an interest in the plane; and Kirby [Carl Weathers], Dusty and Ralph [Bill Fagerbakke], three named dogs that are on Kodi's team. They aren't all good though... or really necessary for the story except for complete plot-padding and for Duke to be a somewhat-antagonist [in the dog's eyes, mind you; for the story, he's not], but it's nice to hear some decent voice talent [and actors, in some cases] in something different than what animation fans would expect.

Music-wise, I will have to say that it's not too bad. The music is more adventurous like the first film, and it fits, given the theme being the same [dog-sledding]. The songs were also okay, on par to some of the better DTV sequels out there.

The first song, "Everything Flies", is the perfect set-up for the film. The images of the Alaskan wildlife and of the sled dogs is really nice, though this is also a place with a little cameo of a certain little girl from movie one... Too bad she gets no other scenes, but a cameo is still something. The song gets a reprise in the end as everything concludes, so the song is perfect bookends.

Second is Stella's flirty song to Boris, "Come On Up and Fly", and it is very jazzy and sultry. I'm surprised that some of the um, suggestive lyrics remained in the G-rated film, honestly. Other than that, I can't really say anything wrong with it. It's a stage-y type of song, so I suppose it works with Stella herself, given her design, as well as the near-1930s time period. The song is unnecessary though, and I wish they had used this time to give us more "Kodi-time" rather than "Boris x Stella shipping".

As I mentioned earlier, Jenna gets the final song, "You Don't Have To Be A Hero", and it is soothing and inspirational as it should be. Even the images to go with it are quite sweet, bringing back the puppies [and Aleu] from the previous film but putting some focus on Balto and Kodi. It's nice to see Balto proud of his son and how much he's grown since he was a pup, as well as to give some sort of backstory to why Kodi wants to be a sled dog like his famous father... and all with just the visuals accompanying her song. It's probably the best thing Jenna's done in the sequels, honestly, and it's a shame she wasn't written to do much more.

Overall, this is not the film I expected for Balto's swan song. It does return to his original focus of dog-sledding by adding how important it is to his son, Kodi, but it does help this movie from being a predictable bore-fest. Some of the humor from Stella is more adult-oriented than I'd expect for a kid's movie and there's some banter between a couple of moose that might get a laugh, so the whole family might find something to like.

Still, the animation's good, the music's decent, but the story makes this finale a weak piece of fail. Is it worth watching? Probably for the sake of knowing you watched the Balto trilogy in its entirely, yes... but unless you're a die-hard Balto fan or need to have all three for a complete set, I would give it just a single watch and nothing more. The DVD is actually harder to find in stores [unlike the two previous movies, which you can now get in a two-movie set for as low as $5] but is easier to seek out online, though for a much higher price [about $5 or more].

In my initial review of "Wings of Change" in 2005 [right after the US premiere], I gave the film 3.5 stars, but then years later, I dropped my rating to 2 stars. What do I think of it now?

Eh... it's not really worthy of 2 stars or any more than 3 stars in my mind, if only because it had the potential to be an awesome finale for the wolfdog and his world by bringing back the original film's writers and having improved animation, but it just failed and was too safe, child-friendly and, in the end, quite lame.

MY 'NEW RATING: 2.5 STARS

TLKGIRL1998's avatar
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Reviews: 3

TLKGIRL1998's Review

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posted: Jan 06, 2013
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ok , I've only seen this film a couple of times , and i didn't see it in a while , and i haven't ever seen the second movie but i just will say this movie is an ok movie , it's cute , i recommend seeing it. the animation was not the best. it could of been better. they kinda messed up balto and jenna's design in the second one ( I've seen screen shots ) oh , but in this film , they really messed up there design. the music was kinda corny. the plot was really off , but it was still a cute movie. i loved the characters. i thought some of the characters ( the new ones ) were kinda unneeded. i didn't like kodi's character very much , i found him to be kinda annoying. :P i wish they kinda brought back old characters , nikki , kaltag , steele , star , dixie , aleu , and sylvie. i think that's really all i can remember.

Question's avatar
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Reviews: 42

Question's Review

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posted: Jun 29, 2010
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Just no.
Horrible animation, and a not so deep plot. While the backgrounds were OK, kinda pretty, this movie killed the first movie, but was waaaay better than WQ. It follows the first movie, but still kills it.
Not worth buying - however, if your a true Balto fan, go for it.

Dia's avatar
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Reviews: 5

Dia's Review

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posted: Mar 01, 2008
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OK.Balto 3 is a deception,i dont know but the story is just dull isnt for everyone?! I
watch the movie in spanish and it doesnt arrange the story..Stella is so stupid and her song his a Desaster!THE whole movie is so empty that you can ask you:Why do they actually made a third Balto?Balto made it up a bit but why is he actually complaining always about himself?ok, the entertainment is narrow in that movie because the characters only irritate the watchers .So the movie need more personality .

Dogstar's avatar
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Reviews: 34

Dogstar's Review

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posted: May 23, 2007
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I am going to be blunt about this; I am not impressed with this film. Wings of Change lacks the depth and maturity of its predecessors. Even though Wolfquest had many flaws, I infinitely prefer it to Wings.

Balto Three, is the story of Balto, and his son Cody. Cody carries the mail with a dog team. Cody is very proud of his job, but change is in the air, in the form of an airplane. This metal machine is faster than any dog, and threatens to take the sled dog’s jobs away.

Although I dislike this movie, Wings has its good sides. Unlike "Wolfquest", Wings has continuity to the first film. Balto is finally recognized as the hero he is. The plot is relatively historically accurate… for an animated movie. Though I doubt real sled dogs were upset by "loosing their jobs".

The songs aren't half bad, but they certainly are not memorable. The score and sound effects are insufferable. They don't fit the movie at all, especially the climax, where a jazzy tune is played.

I don't care for most of the new characters. Stella, (Boris's love interest) and the two city dogs are annoying, and don't really move the plot along. Cody and his dog-team are not half-bad. They lack personality, but are likeable. As for the old characters, they have become extremely bland. Especially Balto, the now never-do-wrong father figure.

What really bothers me about this film, is the maturity level, which is low compared to the last two films. It focuses too much on comedy, and offers nothing thought provoking. If you’re looking for a sequel to Balto with accuracy then I suggest Wings, but if you are looking for something a little deeper, go for Wolfquest.

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Reviews: 4

SqueakCurly's Review

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posted: Jul 23, 2005
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Okay, this is my first review here, so it's not the best knocked-head-over-heels kind of review. It's just a simple, normal review. So let's begin. Let's get the first things first. All the great chars are back, with all the new voices, that were here in the first movie, example Maurice LaMarche, who's doing pretty good to make his voice sound the same as Kevin Bacon. Jodi Benson is here too doing the voice of Jenna, and she's doing awesome too. For a 2D movie it has a lot of 3D graphics, like the plane and all that, but it adds a nice touch to the movie. Also, one thing about one of the chars....As soon as you see Boris's new girlfriend Stella, you can tell she will be annoying. Oh yes. Annoying is the word. Having a girlfriend makes Boris all that less appealing and exciting as in the other movies.

Jenna's song is awesome! What's it called? Oh yes, 'You Don't Have to be a Hero' I think. Very nice tune, and words similar to a song I've heard before but will not reveal the sources.

Balto has yellow eyes again, yes! It's also great that Balto gets to lead a dog team again, just like old times. Balto seemed a bit different in the second movie, characterwise but now he seems back to normal again.

The graphics are really well done, can't really say anything negative....They did all of the chars pretty much the way they did them in the first movie.

Does someone always have to get mad at Balto? In the second movie his daughter gets mad at him, in Wings of Change, his son gets mad at him, does it never end? Though of course they always make up (due to younger audiences about lessons in friendship). The two polar bears get bigger roles in this movie, but act...more stupid. Well, that's all I have to say about Wings of Change...how'd I do on my first review?

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fatalframer122's Review

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posted: Feb 16, 2005
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This movie is the best sequal of the first movie. Much better than Wolf Quest, character voicing is much better. Characters actually sound like themselves from the first movie. The newest character, Kodi, is voiced by Sean Astin, who also played in "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Although I would have liked Kevin Bacon to voice Balto and Bridget Fonda to voice Jenna, I still think that Maurice LaMarche and Jodi Benson do a great job in recreating their voices.
The music overall was great. The only MAJOR DRAWBACK was Stella's song. It was so awful that it made my stomache churn and reel with pain. It had no perspective or any purpose to exist even to call it that! The best song would have to be Jenna's song, "You Don't Have to be a Hero".
Animations in this movie are one big step up from Wolf Quest and a bit enhanced from the first Balto. Characters are more smoothly designed and move about more freely. The only problem that kept gnawing on me was the fact that too little detail and scenes of the plane crash were in existence. When I watched this movie the first time, I thought this movie was messed up because I was confused, but then I rented an extra copy and I realized what was happening after the third try. Except for the plane flying sometimes looking a little too 3D over a 2D movie, the animations were almost flawless and in pristine condition.
The story line is much more better too. Rather than based miles from home and based on some Indian-related tale, the movie is based on their present time, back in Nome. I think that a competition for the mail job that dogs have had for generations seems much more interesting to me.
Overall, another great family movie like the others, but this is one I stongly suggest. I want to thank Universal and keep up the good work. I hope to see more of this great work I've ever seen in a series in the near future.

greykitty's avatar
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greykitty's Review

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posted: Feb 02, 2005
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For a dtv this movie was ok. The animation, voice work, score, and characters were, for the most part, done fairly well.

The story followed along the lines of the original in that Balto had to rescue someone. not very original, but better than Wolf Quest's. The mail delivery dog sled team races against a plane, the plane crashes, and Balto sets out to find the Pilot. It had a few slow spots, and was very predictable, but it was entertaining enough.

Most characters were pretty good. Many of the original characters made cameo appearances, but that was about it for them. Jenna did have a slightly larger role in this movie, which was nice, but really in the sequels her only role seems to be popping out puppies and being a worry wort. Balto, although not quite like the one in the first, was still pretty good. He wasn't overly protective in this movie. Kodi, Balto's son was a pretty good character, could have had a lot more depth to him though. Several of the other minor characters were pretty good. The only ones I really complain about are the polar bears and Stella. Stella is one of the most annoying characters ever thought up. She didn't help the story along at all, and at times I think she slowed it down. The polar bears, although very cute in the first, are just plain annoying now. Although they aren't quite as bad as they were in WQ.

The score was really good for a sequel. Most of time it fit the movie. Only two complaints. First is Stella's song. One word for it: Awful. It really served no purpose. It was just there for the hey of it I guess. Second was when Balto and the polar bears are being washed down the river. An upbeat jazzy background song is being played. Personally I thought it sounded very out of place. The other song, that was sung by a character, was sung by Jenna, and it was ok. Overall the music was nice and I enjoyed it more than WQ's score and songs.

The animation, although still a lot like WQ's, had more of the original flavor to it. Balto's eyes were yellow again, although it's something small it was nice to see this corrected from WQ's error. Some of the animation is still unnatural like WQ's but not as bad. The backgrounds were beautiful, and the computer animation flowed better this time and seemed to fit in a little better with the 2D. Several spots where the camera zoomed or did a fly by it would clash though.

The voice work was really nice in this film. Sean Astin did a wonderful job as Kodi. Balto, Jenna, Boris, Muk, and Luk all sounded closer to the originals this time than they did in WQ. Boris actually sounded Russian and Jenna's voice wasn't as annoyingly perky.

I enjoyed this movie, and although it has it's faults, it's a big step above Wolf Quest. I don't feel that I totally wasted my money when I bought it, and I'd suggest it to anyone who is really into Balto, maybe for a Friday night rental.

de_whitewolf's avatar
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de_whitewolf's Review

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posted: Jan 13, 2005
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This is what every Balto fans are waiting for! I watched it alreay, and I must say, its really awesome. I loved it, This is most probably one of the best DTV ever! I think everone should watch it. The voice acting improved, with Sean Astin as Kodi. The animation is much better now. The songs are improved and the characters doesn't really bug me too much now. Man, I really loved the Balto series, sadly to say this, but I really think that Balto 3 should be the end , the ending will leave an everlasting impression on one's mind. Unless there is an animated TV series for it, I don't mind!

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lupercal's Review

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posted: Oct 28, 2004
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Edit, 2007: this movie has been re-evaluated due to my new DTV rating guidelines, which boil down to 'This is a DTV, not 'Shrek 2'. As it happens, the rating wasn't changed anyway.

Edit 2015: it's still weaker than'Wolf Quest', though I've downgraded 'Wolf Quest'
----

Ok, where to start? Well, I was one of the few people who thought 'Wolf Quest' was pretty good when it was being howled down as awful, so I suppose it's not that amazing that I should be a bit disappointed with the third Balto film when everyone is so positive it will be great. On the whole, on first viewing I would say it's probably not much better or worse than Wolf Quest, which is not a bad thing. Its strengths and weaknesses are in different areas, though.

What's good about it? Well for a start, it makes far more sense in relation to the first film, is similar in theme, and doesn't present the viewer with strange situations such as Wolf Quest did. Balto is no longer the inexplicably dispirited outcast from Wolf Quest. Instead, he's involved with the human population and the other dogs of Nome in a way which you would expect of the hero who saved the town in 1925.

Secondly, though Jenna is still off-model, visually and vocally, she's off-model in a more pleasing way, she's much more interesting than she was in Wolf Quest, and she gets a lot more screen time than I expected.

Thirdly, the production values are at least as good as Wolf Quest, some of the backgrounds are terrific (though Wolf Quest had some really strong backgrounds, too), and whereas there is a fair bit of CGI in B3, it doesn't tend to jar against the 2D animation as much as it did in Wolf Quest (though compared to some recent movies, the use of 3D in Wolf Quest is positively subtle!)

Fourthly there are no embarressingly bad canine characters this time, like that awful trio of wolves from the second half of WQ. Kodi, Balto's son, is a decent if not very fleshed out character, and the other dogs are all fine, though none of them are especially memorable.

Fifthly, there are a few animation sequences which surpass anything in Wolf Quest - though there also a couple of fleeting shots where characters seem to have been drawn by entirely different animators.

Finally the shift back to an action theme ought to be a welcome change away from the mystical distractions of Wolf Quest.

Ought to be. That's the problem. I just didn't find that the action/suspense theme of the film carried anywhere near the emotional clout of the original. In fact I think Wolf Quest was probably more emotional than Wings of Change, certainly in its final scenes. Why is that? I'm not completely sure, having just viewed it for the first time, but I'll make a few stabs at explaining it below.

What didn't work? Firstly, though there are no embarressing canine characters, there's an equally embarressing avian one. Boris's girlfriend Stella is really, really, really, really, really, really, REALLY annoying. She turns up out of nowhere and is instantly and inexplicably seductive towards Boris - I mean to the point of having breasts for God's sake, and doing a really ridiculous cabaret number. This nonsense takes up far too much of the first half of the film and contributes nothing to the story, other than giving an oblique way of advancing the 'flight' motif of the movie. Fortunately Stella improves as a character in the second half of the movie, but it doesn't really answer the question of why she is there at all.

Secondly there's too much comedy. There was comedy in the first film, but it was largely cordoned off from the action sequences. This time the two get mixed up and it undercuts the drama at times - I think this is part of why the film lacked emotional impact for me. Or perhaps it was just because the thing isn't all that brilliantly directed. It just seems not to know how to tell a suspenseful story like the original film - and I'm putting it down to the direction, and to a lesser extent the writing, because there's nothing wrong with the overall story concept. An example? There is one point where a crisis is about to happen, which ought to have been really dramatic, and the soundtrack is a sort of ditzy, big-band jazz track that just has nothing to do with what's on screen at all.

There are a couple of other things that bug me. At the start of the film, Balto has an overwhelming fascination with wanting to fly. Why? We never find out.

Anyone who misses Aleu might be pleased to know that there's a female dog on the sled team, who, if someone hadn't called her 'Dusty' at one point, I would have thought was Aleu come back from across the ice. Which raises another question. If she's been accepted into the sled team, and looks just like Aleu, why was Aleu rejected for looking like that in the previous film? But I suppose this is more a fault of Wolf Quest than this movie, and you do get the feeling that the original writers, who are back for this effort, are making a conscious effort to correct some of Wolf Quest's inconsistencies.

Well, I'm a big Balto fan, and I suspect this film will be better recieved than Wolf Quest was. Personally I'd rate them about the same. They're both pretty decent for DTV sequels, and they're also very different from each other. I guess if I lean slightly towards Wolf Quest it's because I felt that with that movie the producers tried their hardest for something intense, but just didn't quite make it work, whereas with this one they got the foundations solid, but then didn't really try to do anything very special with it.

Like Wolf Quest though, this has its srengths and is a long way from being a shambles. I think I'm going to have to live with it a bit longer. I may grow more or less fond of it. At the moment, like Wolf Quest, this gets 3 stars, though (a couple of months on now), I'm finding myself thinking more and more that this is the over-rated sequel, and Wolf-Quest the under-rated one.

(PS I just had to do a search for a particular scene on this film in order to answer a question from someone - and I just noticed how bad the mpeg compression artefacts are. They're absolutely awful. I pulled out Wolf Quest to compare it with, and WQ was fine. You won't notice it porbably on normal viewing, but on slow-mo, search or pause there's ghosting all over the place. I'd be interested to hear when the US DVD comes out whether it's any better than the Australian one, because I might be tempted to get it. Odd, because the Australian version of the original Balto is pristine (and widescreen)

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