Bolt is a good
enough, though not great, piece of Disney computer animation. Probably
the only reason it will really be remembered in the years to come is that it
is the first animated film to be made completely and released by Disney
since Pixar mastermind John Lasseter took over the studio's venerable
While Bolt shows
some of the visual trademarks (mostly good, but some bad) of the Pixar
brand, in general it is a much lighter, surface-level confection than the
deceptively simple looking puzzle-boxes of wonder for which the studio is
lauded. It has the fun, but it does not have to multiple levels and
unique creativity for which Lasseter's films are usually known.
In fact, if you get
technical, several of Bolt's major plot points - including the
Hollywood superdog getting free into the world, trying to use movie stunts
in real life and saving the child he loves from an out-of-control fire -
seemed recycled from last year's admittedly-inferior live-action kid's film
Firehouse Dog. Bolt uses these ideas better than
Firehouse did, but still it's a bit of a shock to think that the studio
behind Ratatouille, The Incredibles and WALL-E would use such
a stock storyline - which also riffs on such past kid's films as The
Incredible Journey, Journey of Natty Gann, Lassie and The Adventures
of Milo and Otis.
It also touches on The
Truman Show, as the story of Bolt is about a dog whose whole life
is a TV show - but he doesn't know that little fact. He has been
brought up to believe that he has super powers and that he must constantly
protect Penny, "his human," from evil-doers.
Therefore he spends all day
on a Hollywood soundstage fighting off hundreds of villains in a series of
special-effects laden chases and fights. Then he spends all night
alone in a trailer on a soundstage, thinking of ways to save Penny the next
day, and occasionally humorlessly arguing with a pair of cats who play the
pets of the bad guys.
Penny loves her little dog,
but she worries that he is so worked up from saving her on a constant basis
that he can't enjoy being just a dog. When on a special cliffhanger it
appears that Penny has been kidnapped, Bolt can't stand to wait and escapes
the soundstage, mistakenly getting shipped to New York.
In the big city, Bolt
learns that he can't do all the wondrous things he believed he was capable
of. He starts a cross-country trek with only a cat and hamster he has
met along the way as companions - meeting real adventures and needs head on
and eventually realizing who he is.
John Travolta does a fine -
if rather subdued job - as the super-pooch who misses home and the girl he
loves. Tween queen Miley Cyrus doesn't add all that much in the
underwritten role of Penny, although her name on the poster should be good
for a bump in box office. Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie Essner
and Mark Walton are responsible for most of the significant laughs in
Bolt as Mittens the jaded cat and Rhino the excitable hamster.
Technically, the film looks
terrific, particularly in some background shots of San Francisco, Las Vegas,
Hollywood and the heartland. The animal characters are mostly lifelike
and loveable, but what's the deal with almost all humans in this movie being
obese? Other than little Penny, her sharky agent and one dog catcher,
everyone in this movie needs to go on a serious diet. Still, computer
animators have always had a problem with humans, so it's no huge surprise
that it's still the animators' Achilles heel.
Still, if Bolt is
imperfect - and it is - when taken on its own merits, it is an enjoyable
diversion and a very able kids' film.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved.
Posted: November 28, 2008.