Bolt (2008)

© Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.
Purchase  Blu-ray | Digital HD

Released:  Friday, November 21, 2008  
Length:  96 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
Genre: Animation/Family
Rating: Bolt is rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of AmericaSome material may not be suitable for children.


Bolt © Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

For super-dog Bolt (voice of John Travolta), every day is filled with adventure, danger and intrigue-at least until the cameras stop rolling. When the star of a hit TV show is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he begins his biggest adventure yet-a cross-country journey through the real world. Armed only with the delusions that all his amazing feats and powers are real, and with the help of two unlikely traveling companions: a jaded, abandoned housecat named Mittens (voice of Susie Essman) and a TV-obsessed hamster in a plastic ball named Rhino, Bolt discovers he doesn't need superpowers to be a hero.

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Bolt images are © Walt Disney Pictures. All Rights Reserved.

Miley Cyrus and John Travolta Team Up. What Could It Be?  5/13/2008 12:13 PM EDT
During a recent interview at the Step Up Women's Network's Inspiration Awards luncheon, Kelly Preston told Marc Malkin of E! that there may very well be a collaboration between her hubby John Travolta and Disney's teen queen, Miley Cyrus (Hannah Montana).Both actors will be lending their voices to the upcoming Disney animated film, "Bolt". Preston says, "Johnny may sing with Miley.""Bolt" is sched...  More>>

Bolt Theatrical Review

Kid's movies walk a fine line; they have to keep children entertained, so they require a story that is very basic, drama that is extremely explicit and "universal" (and not 'adult'), and they must be exciting without being tragic or overly violent. They also have to keep the grown-ups engaged, so they have to have something to work "on that level."

The very best way to do this is by taking a story that has broad appeal and tell it with fierce intensity.  I am thinking of the Pixar classics as perfect examples (e.g. The Incredibles  - a story with enough going on from Mr. Incredibles  's dissatisfaction with his new domestic life to the kids having problems at school).  Disney classics work well here too; I would cite The Lion King.  At least the opening and close, have a tale that evokes almost Shakespearian tragedy and power; the soggy middle has a kid-friendly animal duo that loses a lot of the power that the opening has, but doesn't grind the story to a stop.

One echelon down, the kid's movie will "reach out" to grown-ups with lots of pop-culture references that give at least a veneer of sophistication as they are mostly over the target-audience's head.  Note that some of the best do this as well, but in this case, the references are more a "spice" to the story-line rather than the major appeal. I'll cite Disney animation's, Kim Possible, which contains a call back to the Shaft TV show with a bad-mother -- line stopped just before it sets everyone's hair on fire.

Finally, we hit rock bottom when the show is simply targeted at kids, and there is nothing for grownups! A lot of straight-to-DVD releases come in here and "part 2" of more popular series, where the voices are done by sound-a-likes, instead of the original celebrities.

In this spectrum, Bolt comes in at the bottom of the first category --which is good -- really very good -- but is not great.  The story is about a dog; Bolt is a white German Sheppard -- something we could not determine from the movie itself.  Bolt stars in a TV show about a young girl and her super-powered canine protector.

In order to make the show "seem real", the production team has elaborate sets and procedures to make the dog "think it is real" so Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) thinks he has real super powers.  When he gets separated from his owner, Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus who replaced Chloe Moretz after Chloe had already done all of the lines, and by the way, I feel bad for Chloe), Bolt goes on a cross-country journey to get her back.

Along the way, he meets two traveling companions:  a streetwise cat and a hyperactive hamster.  He learns the value of friendship, how not to quit, and that you do not need super powers to be a hero.  He also learns a host of other basic kid's-movie-lessons that are more or less out of the box.  Does it end in tragedy or triumph?  What do you think?

There are two different kinds of "predictability" in movies.  The good kind is when we see something coming -- see the pieces fit together, and wait with tense anticipation because we do not know how it will turn out.  In these cases the event we see coming usually seems somewhat organic to the plot: it does not rely on partial communication or an incredible coincidence.  We do not "foresee" an incredible coincidence coming because we know that the narrative structure of what we are watching dictates it.  We see it coming because the situation is set up to, basically - make it happen!  That is the good kind. The bad kind is when we see something that has been set up because we've seen it before in other movies -- so we know what will happen - and usually even how it will turn out.

When the TV show gets a stand-in for the missing Bolt, do we think for a minute that the real Bolt's triumphant homecoming won't be (temporarily) ruined when we see his master with another dog?  Do we question how it will turn out?  It doesn't have any real power for grown ups in the audience; but I guess it plays well with kids.  In contrast, I think that the Crash' set up with the enraged shopkeeper who has a gun and believes he has been robbed by a good man, and has told his young daughter that he has given her magical protection against bullets, is exactly the kind of thing we, as adults, see coming with an electric sense of dread -- but have no idea how it will turn out; unless we have been paying very close attention to the scene where he buys the gun.

It takes real craftsmanship and inspiration to work around these types of traps, and Bolt doesn't reach that level of brilliance.  Bolt delivers a solid, kid-friendly story with good performances; and it carries the audience adequately, but it falls short of the highest marks.  On the other hand, it' is in 3D.

The 3D-effect is the new draw for theaters.  It is what you can't get at home, and it is good.  Bolt doesn't generate tension by having things fly at you.  It is not that kind of "3D-movie."  But the depth-effect makes watching it really, and truly different.  Half-way through, you forget that you are seeing things at multiple levels and simply get a more visceral experience. The draw of 3D-films is still, I think, predominantly limited to kid's shows and animation (although it works with standard pictures). I believe that in the future we will see more of this; beyond the "hype" effect it really does make the experience deeper.  If you can see Bolt in 3D, I recommend it.


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