Balto 3: Wings of Change

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/01/05 16:04:20

"Kids won't mind it, parents will yawn."
2 stars (Pretty Crappy)

I kinda liked “Balto,” was mildly ambivalent towards “Balto II,” and now couldn’t care less about “Balto: Wings of Change.” This newest direct-to-video sequel barely has the courtesy to pick up where “II” left off - Balto’s daughter, the star of the last movie, is curiously absent here - and instead chugs along as if made for kids who missed out on the other movies altogether.

Which is fine, I suppose. My own daughter, while not too thrilled with the movie, wasn’t annoyed by it, and she slightly dug the talking dogs - which fits well enough with the low standards of the video sequel format. Parents, however, should be warned to be bored to tears; if you’re unlucky enough to have a child demanding that you rent/buy this DVD, remember to bring a book, or maybe use the time to clean the fish tank.

The Wings of Change here (no relation to the Scorpions, thank goodness) belong to one a’ them newfangled aeroplanes, one of which has flown into Nome, Alaska, in the winter of 1928. The pilot (voiced by Keith Carradine) offers to take over the town’s mail delivery - which threatens the jobs of the local sled dogs. And so, despite the complete obviousness that planes are faster than dogs, the townsfolk set up a challenge: a race between the plane and the sled, the winner being granted the job of mail carrier.

It sounds less dumb in the film, if only slightly so. There are some nice touches added, including Balto’s own fascination with the plane and his desire to let modern times do what they do (even if his “Way of the Future” line reminded me too much of “The Aviator”). There’s also some family quarrel business between Balto (Maurice LaMarche) and son Kodi (Sean Astin) that, while not remarkable in any way, isn’t that bad, really. And yes, keeping in spirit of the series, the whole thing ends with a dangerous rescue mission; even if it’s sloppily added to the story, it works on its own. Kids’ll be handily thrilled enough.

Where the movie stumbles - and hard - is in its attempts at comedy. There’s a weird subplot involving Russian goose Boris (Charles Fleischer) and a sexed-up foul (Jean Smart) who has the hots for him. Seeing this sort of thing is off-putting, to say the least. Then there’s the moose that thinks he’s Robert De Niro, which is even less funny than it sounds. Oh, and a Pesci moose shows up, just to help sell the gag. Yawn.

But as I said already, kids, who have a lower crap tolerance than us grown-ups, will enjoy themselves here. It’s forgettable cartoon entertainment, a usable time-passer. But it’s also a mediocre movie, with very little in its favor. “Wings of Change” is one of those video efforts that will fade away all too quickly, and if you fail to catch it before it’s gone from memory, well, you’re not missing much at all.

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