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.