April 20, 2009
Review - " Bolt " - (on DVD) By Roland Hansen
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Directed by: Byron Howard and Chris Williams
Starring: Miley Cyrus, John Travolta, Malcolm McDowell.
Little white dog Bolt (voice: John Travolta) stars with his young owner Penny
(voice: Miley Cyrus) in a popular fantasy action TV series that casts him as a
superhero mutt able to fly, shoot heat rays from his eyes and emit seismic
shock waves with his "super bark". The problem is that, as in the movie The
Truman Show, little Bolt has been raised to think that it's all real and that he
possesses these superpowers. When not rescuing Penny on TV, he's kept
isolated in a motor home in the studio. Penny would just like to have her
ordinary pet back, but the producers need Bolt to believe that he's a
super-canine so he'll stay motivated. That's when a series of silly mishaps
results in Bolt being shipped to the streets of New York. Convinced that
Styrofoam packing peanuts have sapped him of his superpowers, Bolt allows
himself to be conned into thinking that the black alley cat Mittens (voice: Susie
Essman) is an agent of the bad guys on his TV show. Bolt forces Mittens to
cross the country with him, to find Penny. Along the way they join forces with
the exuberant Rhino (voice: Mark Walton), a fat hamster in a plastic ball who
happens to be Bolt's #1 fan. Mittens figures out what's up and tries to break the
news to Bolt that he's just a silly dog with a lightning bolt inked on his side.
Meanwhile, back in Hollywood, Penny's producers are urging her to accept a
Bolt substitute and go on with the show ...
Bolt is a peculiar little dog with a one-track mind focused on eternal vigilance. Conditioned to believe that Evil Conspiracies
are creeping at him from all directions, he spends his off hours on point, ready to attack whatever comes through the door
of his Winnebago. Every episode of the "Bolt" TV show shows the dog beating all odds to defeat the Evil Dr. Calico (voice:
Malcolm McDowell) and his cat-themed hordes of electric-fingered minions with their killer motorcycles and sinister
helicopters. The exaggerated jeopardy and hyped hysteria are amusing, but we immediately prefer the tamer, friendlier
atmosphere outside the show-within-a-show. Penny is weary of being rescued every week and being denied playtime with
her dog, who thinks he's America's only line of defense.
A skinny black cat with one frayed ear, Mittens is a street-wise sharpie running a protection racket on New York's pigeon
population. The birds are only too happy to see Mittens dragged off on a loony mission by a crazy dog. It's amusing to see
the scrappy little dog genuinely surprised when he can't fly or open doors by narrowing his eyebrows and staring. Viewers
with puppies of their own will recognize the doggy habit of trying to look fiercer than they are. Poor disillusioned Bolt just
can't figure it out.
Mittens learns to trust others again, we discover that she's really a softie, still wondering why her owners abandoned her.
The literal ball of energy Rhino provides furry comic support as a Superfan endowed with limitless optimism.
A simple, fast paced story with vibrant animation and simple characters makes for a solid time killer but nothing more. Bolt is
very much like a Saturday morning cartoon souped up and blown up for the big screen with a few inspired scenes, some
laughs, but with a premise that’s hard to swallow even in a cartoon world.
All this really means is that unlike the great stuff coming from Pixar, Bolt isn't anywhere near as much fun for parents as for
children. Kids aren't dumb though, and they’re certain to feel something missing even if they can’t articulate it, but at
ninety-six fast paced minutes they won’t much care.
With little more than surface characterizations and relationships, Bolt doesn't aspire to much, but its saving grace is an
easygoing story that coasts along to a fairly predictable climax. The Bolt character is essentially a retread of Buzz Lightyear,
but without the chemistry that existed between Buzz and Woody in the Toy Story movies.
A lot of people are saying that "Bolt" is the greatest thing to hit animation in years but I didn't find it to be all that great. It just
doesn't do it for me.