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Balto II: Wolf Quest Reviews

Dramatically superior to its precursor, this sequel enables older kids to reflect on such issues as inter-racial identity and adolescent estrangement from parents. And, yes, it's a cartoon! When Balto the wolf-dog (voice of Maurice LaMarche) dreams of Native American animal symbols, he doesn't understand their significance. Ignoring his nightmares, Balto visits his wife and the puppies he sired; the tame doggies are all ready for adoption as pets except Aleu (Lacey Chabert). Aleu shuns domestication, yet resents the traits that make her an unsuitable human companion. Risking his daughter's ire, Balto reveals that Aleu's grandmother was a wolf; somehow, that lupine gene predominates in Aleu. Unable to fit in, Aleu runs away. During his journey to reclaim his daughter, Balto encounters the creatures from his dreams and learns something from each. For example, Balto learns to value skepticism after a tricky fox pushes him into the rapids. Meanwhile, Aleu encounters a wise, singing mouse and discovers that everyone has a spirit guide and a purpose. During their reunion, Balto rescues a grateful Aleu from a bear, but father and daughter have very different reactions when full-fledged wolves surround them. Endangered by a diminishing caribou population, the wolf-pack members may have to abandon their homeland. Elder wolf Nava (David Carradine) advises migration, but headstrong rebel Niju (Mark Hammill) tries to usurp his power. It may be Aleu's destiny to save her untamed brethren, but can Balto let her shoulder this burden and choose her own place in the world? Although the tunes feel extraneous and the scenario bogs down in a surfeit of mysticism, this kid-flick's screenplay is surprisingly meaty, challenging its young audience by tackling serious life lessons.