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Movie Review

In the brutal winter of 1925, a team of sled dogs carried antitoxin across 600 miles of arctic tundra to diphtheria-stricken Nome, Alaska. The town was saved, and the dogs' heroic trek inspired what has become the world-famous Iditarod cross-country dog sled race.

Based on that true story, the animated adventure Balto also addresses the question, "Can a half-breed wolf overcome the pride of a rival sled dog, the prejudice of townspeople, and find love in the paws of a well-groomed husky?" Adults may be pleasantly surprised—not just by the happy ending, but also by the wealth of discussion material presented.

Balto is a kind-hearted canine shunned by villagers who fear he might be dangerous simply because he is part wolf. This identity crisis forces Balto to live in seclusion and self-doubt. His only friends are a Russian snow goose, two hydrophobic polar bears and a dog named Jenna. But when disease threatens the town's children—and a pedigree sled team, led by the arrogant Steel, loses its way—Balto quietly sets out to save the day, followed by his faithful pals. Young children may find several scenes a bit intense (a grizzly bear attack, children struggling with illness, etc.), but all ends well. Also, this uplifting film can be used to educate as it entertains:

— How do these characters model teamwork, humility, dedication and trust?

— Discuss how Balto uses shards of glass to show Jenna beauty in brokenness.

— Contrast Steel's quest for glory and Balto's humble servanthood in light of Luke 14:7-11 and 18:9-14.

— Why does the goose lament, "Not a dog. Not a wolf. All he sees is what he is not."? Encourage children to embrace their uniqueness as creations of God.

Balto is a rental the whole family can enjoy together—a celebration of virtue that's good, clean fun.

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Voices of Kevin Bacon, Bob Hoskins, Bridget Fonda, Phil Collins, Jim Cummings


Simon Wells ( )




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Bob Smithouser

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