Friday, November 21, 2008


It’s been quite awhile since I’ve used the word impressed to describe a Disney animated film.  Bolt proves two things: 1) Disney bringing Pixar into the fold was a very smart move and is starting to bear fruit, and 2) the Magic Kingdom may still have a little fairy dust left after all.  Bolt is one of the most pleasant surprises of the year.

Bolt (John Travolta) is a super-dog whose powers include laserbeams which shoot out of his eyes and a super-bark which can take out an entire army of Dr. Calico’s (Malcom McDowell) evil agents.  There’s just one thing, none of it is real.

Bolt is the star of a television show and believes the special effects done during the scenes are his own doing.  When the script calls for his owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) to be abducted Bolt breaks out of the studio and finds himself in a world which he is ill-prepared for.

Bolt forcibly enlists the help of a cat, Mittens (Susie Essman), whom he believes is an agent of evil and can take him to Penny.  Along the way they also pick-up a gerbil (Mark Walton) who is Bolt’s biggest fan and is able to shed some light on the canine’s false assumptions (along with making some of his own).  This unlikely threesome travel across the country with a restaurant map as their guide to reunite the one-time super-dog with his person.

What could have easily been a very predictable and forgettable little film actually spends the time to flesh out these characters and events and give us more than we expected.  It’s a Disney animated film that’s smart!  The animation itself is terrific, but the real story here is the script by Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams itself which is the best to come out of Disney in a long time.  And I believe kudos are in order for Pixar’s John Lasseter who served as both producer and consultant on the film.  Note to Disney - make sure you get his input on all future projects.

There’s some nice voice casting in many minor roles including James Lipton as the show’s director, and the pigeons on both coasts who provide some fun, but it’s the interaction between Bolt and Mittens that carries the film.  One of my favorite scenes shows the difference to how many people treat a stray dog and a stray cat who beg for food, and another involves Mittens instructing Bolt on how to be a real dog.  Aside from brains, and a good sense of humor, this movie has a big heart.

2008 has been a very strong year for animation and Bolt makes the grade.  I’d recommend the film to the entire family; it’s a fun tale with a nice message about home, friends, and family.  The movie is being released in both regular prints and 3-D.  I have not viewed the 3-D version, but the story stands on its own merits and I am curious to return to the theater to see what the 3-D adds to the experience.  Hopefully I’ll see you there.

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