**** (out of 5)
November 21, 2008
John Travolta as BOLT
Miley Cyrus as PENNY
Susie Essman as MITTENS
Mark Walton as RHINO
Malcolm McDowell as DR. CALICO
Directed by: Byron Howard and Chris Williams
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
A few weeks ago when “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” hit the screens, I made the observation that you just can’t go wrong with Disney dogs. The Walt Disney Company has had a long line of great family movies that feature dogs in the starring roles – from “Lady and the Tramp” to this year’s lapdog hit. Now, Disney is set for another super canine hit with “Bolt.”
This film comes from the feature animation department of Disney, which cut its CGI teeth on films like “Chicken Little” and “Meet the Robinson” while Pixar was being absorbed by the company. This is what Disney animation has become, leaving much of the ink-and-paint tools behind. (Although under the rule of John Lasseter, the 2-D animation arm of Disney shall be revived with the upcoming “The Princess and the Frog,” set for release in 2009.)
“Bolt” is a very typical Disney story, featuring a bit of “Beverly Hills Chihuahua” with a sprinkle of “Hannah Montana” and a dash of Buzz Lightyear. The story follows a pup named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) that thinks he has super powers. He protects his girl Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) from a battalion of evildoers. However, what Bolt doesn’t know is that these events are all staged for his benefit by the producers of a television show.
When Bolt thinks Penny has been captured, he rushes out into the real world to save her. He’s accidentally shipped from Hollywood to New York, and he must make his trip across the heartland to return home. Along the way, he befriends an alley cat and a hyperactive hamster named Rhino, and eventually discovers that he’s just a normal dog with no super powers.
This is a story we’ve seen many times before in the Disney canon. In fact, when the realization of having no special powers sinks in, Bolt has a very similar conversation with Rhino that Buzz and Woody have in the first “Toy Story.”
Still, with the familiarity of the plot, things are still a lot of fun. “Bolt” is a great film for the family, and with only a handful of flicks to compete with, it should prove to be quite profitable for the Mouse House past Thanksgiving. After all, the animals from “Madagascar” have had a couple weeks atop the box office. Now it’s Bolt’s turn.
This film is a treat for the family, and it is also being released in Disney Digital 3-D, which should make the trip to the movies even more special. With how excellent other CGI family films have been in 3D (like “Monster House” and the aforementioned “Meet the Robinsons”), “Bolt” should prove to be a worthy family outing this holiday season.
While it’s not at the level of Pixar (and I ask you, what is?), “Bolt” is a solid animated film with plenty of action and plenty of heart. The voice cast is solid. Travolta seems to be grabbing his fair share of Disney family films with this and “Wild Hogs.” Disney Channel juggernaut Miley Cyrus is okay as Penny, although her character isn’t given much to work with.
To be honest, the character that steals the show is Rhino the Hamster (voiced by animator Mark Walton). Single-handedly, he’s the “Madagascar” penguins of this movie and makes the slower parts in the middle well worth watching.
The only downer that I found in the film was the fact that the opening “Bolt TV show” action sequence is so awesome (and by that, I mean “The Incredibles” awesome) that I really would have liked to see more of the adventures of the dog with super powers than the rescued mutt in the fake real life.