This has the same cast and director as the second film, and it is written by Cliff Ruby and Elana Lesser, the writers of the first film. This is the first sequel written by the original’s writer(s). I have seen little discussed about this film partly because it just does not leave an impact.
It starts with a simple song and the mail dogs doing their job happily, and also foreshadowing their future turn back to the lights side.
The plot starts with Balto getting Jenna to wait for a plane, that he loves watching and trying to outrun. Maurice LaMarche’s voice is now practically identical to Kevin Bacon’s performance partly as the dialogue matches the original’s better. Balto really wants to fly in it due to the freedom, though I always thought the fun of it alone should do the trick.
These two characters are Ralph and Dipsy. They were supposed to be a couple, but the director had all sorts of unused ideas and that was most of their scenes. They are unimportant, but at least Ralph is kind of funny. They are worried about the mail being late, and it finally arrives being delivered by Kodi, Balto and Jenna’s son, and many other dogs that I can never remember the names of. For the most part they are not important. They are always late, and only Kodi cares. The pilot, Duke, leaves to talk and Balto wants to fly off in it. It is also mentioned a few times that the snow is soft for Spring.
In the meantime another goose, Stella, arrives, and she and Boris are immediately attracted to each other especially after she sees Boris be a father to two polar bears. I heavily criticized Charles Fleischer’s performance last film but between the better script this feels close to the Boris of the first film. The problem is she wants for them to fly together, and Boris then reveals to Balto that he is horrified of heights. The plot so far is overly generic, but the dialogue and execution of the comedy is saving it.
After Boris practices by flying literally a few inches off the ground the mail dogs overhear the meeting from underneath the same floor from the first film. Apparently the hospital was remade into a city hall within three years (this film takes place in 1928, while the first film takes place in 1925). The city decides that the mail dogs are too slow, so they want to replace them with the plane, but they ultimately decide to race. The mail dogs talk about who will lead them and lead dogs says “you can count on me.” The delivery and dialogue is funny, but due to it being hard to find out their names or character the mail dogs come off really flat, yet they probably have the most interesting storyline. Especially today in America people are focusing on their own jobs rather than being good, and that is their problem. Obviously they pick Balto for their leader, which I presume is allowed because the newspaper backed it up to make this more newsworthy.
Whenever these films are mentioned someone always claims the historical Balto is not a hero, and that it hurts the film. Well, this is a movie and movie Balto is definitely a hero. Also real Balto lead a key part of the serum run, and successfully made up for his mushers mistakes by getting them out of a blizzard he got them stuck in, and like movie Balto he overcame being the dog everyone thought would fail.
Back to this movie the mail dogs are already celebrating victory as soon as Balto agrees to lead and do not listen to his advice or pessimism about victory. He is worried about how Kodi will see him when he loses, and Jenna then sings the best song of the film “You don’t have to be a Hero.” Director Phil Weinstein said it was supposed to show Kodi becoming a mail dog, but the clips of Balto being a dad to him are better. It is about Balto being a dad to him over being the town hero. It also includes shots of Aleu being faster than her siblings to please the second film’s fans. The problem is that the three songs are crammed into the first thirty-two minutes of film (I skipped one by Stella). Boris also tells Balto he is faking wing injuries and if things go wrong for Balto to pretend to need his help.
The night before the race Balto and Duke have a friendly look at the plane. Stella falls for a story by Boris about his wing being injured in a fight with a bald eagle. Right before the race Boris brags about its success while being unaware Stella is right there, and she chases him into the plane. The race starts by revealing the plane is not that reliable, but when it does finally take off Duke quickly surpasses the dogs.
Balto has also improved at keeping his teammates in control, and the map from the first one shows their progress tot heir destination. So far this just feels too much like a less good version of the first one, but like a Balto movie at least. Duke has to take time finding a landing spot nearly letting the dogs catch up, but besides Balto trailing leaves them discouraged. On the ground Duke has to take a lot of maintenance work giving the dogs a fine lead, but Boris just misses joining Balto back to Nome, and I think the mail dogs did not want the extra work, but the dogs take a big lead until Duke surpasses them all, and he gives them a salute. Duke then cannot see in icy air, and between losing track of where he is, the plane’s wings filing with ice, and the engine failing the dogs surpass him. He then crashes.
The dogs are very happy, except for Balto who says they will lose to the plane eventually. This makes Kodi mad and Jenna disappointed. Then Muk and Luk talk about a monster they saw in the snow, which Balto realizes is the plane, and talk with Stella makes him realize Stella is there, which horrifies Stella that she cannot keep insulting Boris, and that she could be directly responsible for his death. Balto tries to recruit the mail dogs or at least Kodi to go there, but they instead say they are mostly loyal to their jobs, an that these events show that dogs are more dependable than machines. I guess balto’s other children live out of town now. Jenna stays behind assuming Kodi went (bad thinking) leaving the party as Stella (who has no idea where anything there is due to being on vacation, two polar bear cubs with little to no skills, and the great hero Balto who will clearly have to do all the work.
This film then becomes a looney tune with some music to match. The characters instead of being saved by skill or strength get saved by the ice coincidently clogging itself into a convenient bridge.
Oddly Stella supplies all of the humor in it. They find Boris after dealing with some bull moose, and again they are saved by coincidences way to close to the other time that saved them. After this Balto gets Muk and Luk to take Bori back, while he will bring Duke and his broken leg back to Nome. This series has now revered the usual The Land Before Time format. Normally they had different plots that all connected at the end. Here they are disconnecting at the end.
Director Phil Weinstein has written that he wanted Steele to help Balto around this part instead of the mail dogs, and I do not think that would have worked. While it could connect to Duke being a good person, the rival and obvious villain being overall good and wanting to help, that would be hard to pull off, and between the pacing issues and scenes that really go nowhere I think that is too ambitious for his skills as a director. Instead a scene is added where Kodi and the mail dogs come to help allowing Balto and Duke to make it back. Basic plot points are addressed like Boris confessing his fears to Stella and Duke taking Balto for a plane ride.