The Good: Decent premise, Moments of clever dialogue, Good sense of emotion
The Bad: Very predictable plot format, Disney sidekick conceit
The Basics: Bolt is enjoyable, but not as substantial as some other, more unpredictably character-driven Disney animated films.
Part of the fun of the holidays for me is in giving my wife gifts I know she will like. Because so many of the movies she loves are from Disney, I picked up many Disney movies for her in the last year. The thing is, when I had money to do that, I bulked up on the gifts for her. So, when I planned out her gifts, I wrapped up many of them and put on each one the holiday or event it was intended for. Today when my wife was unwrapping gifts, one of them was a Disney film I had forgotten all about. It was Bolt and it became the first DVD or Blu-Ray I bought my wife for the holiday that she wanted to see. So, we spent some time this afternoon watching Bolt and I have to say I enjoyed it!
Bolt begins as an engaging-enough animated film that becomes less distinctive as the movie goes on. While it bursts right into the plotline in a way that is uncharacteristic of Disney movies, it promises something uncommon. Unfortunately, at the moments that Bolt could truly, fully commit to being a powerful, adult film disguised as an animated movie, it cops out and reverts to being a very predictable, surprisingly obvious Disney kid's movie. That made the movie less satisfying for me as one who loves adult films.
Bolt is a puppy when he comes to live with Penny. Five years later, he is a super-powered dog that helps Penny in her unending quest to find her father again. Bolt is fast, strong and smart and with Penny, he takes on an entire international criminal syndicate. At least, that is what Bolt believes. Actually, Bolt works on a television show, unbeknownst to him. When the network comes in and demands the show retain its important demographic by becoming more depressing and real, the producers of the series feature a cliffhanger episode where Penny is abducted. Penny tries to reassure Bolt, but because the producers need Bolt to believe in the reality of the show, she is forbidden from seeing him after the episode wraps and reassuring him.
Bolt, desperate to find Penny, breaks out of his trailer and begins his search for her. Bolt gets mailed off to New York City where he encounters Mittens, a cat running a protection racket. Out in the real world, Bolt begins to fear what it means that he has lost his powers. Together with Mittens and a bubble-ball ensnared hamster, Rhino, Bolt learns to beg and works to get back to Hollywood and his beloved friend Penny!
The road trip movie is hardly a new thing for a Disney animated film. They do that type of character journey on about half of their films and Bolt offers nothing truly new. Bolt is an uncharacteristic action-adventure film with minimal comedy at the outset. What comedy there is in Bolt is slapstick, usually Bolt running into doors, windows and the like. That humor gets repetitive and seems specifically designed to get back the children that are mortgaged by the direct, action, drama aspects that lead the film.
The other big Disney conceit comes in the form of Muffin and Rhino. Disney movies seldom have the character developing on their own. Instead, they need sounding boards and that dependence upon these stock characters is troubling. In Bolt, while Muffin is interesting, Rhino quickly comes across as a very basic, generic sidekick. His lines are not terribly funny, though he is performed as a manic, over-the-top, sidekick who is responsible more for catchphrases than character growth.
Bolt is performed by a surprisingly limited cast for a Disney film. John Travolta takes the voicing of Bolt like a champ, though the musical number during the closing credits did not exactly help to sustain his post-Pulp Fiction comeback. Miley Cyrus voices Penny without real distinction, so it is hard to see why Disney tapped her for the project other than the fact she was probably already on the lot when the movie was being produced. Malcolm McDowell and Diedrich Bader provide distinctive vocals as Dr. Calico and one of the cats, but other major roles, like Mittens and Rhino are voiced by the comparative unknowns, Susie Essman and Mark Walton, respectively.
On DVD, Bolt comes with behind-the-scenes featurettes and some decent additional cartoons, like the one where Rhino is added to the television show that Bolt is a part of! The bonus features are cute and informative, making the DVD a worthwhile buy. Despite the Disney conceits and the sacrifice of the more adult moments that open the film, Bolt is very entertaining and worth picking up.
For other Disney animated films, please visit my reviews of:
Toy Story 3
A Christmas Carol
The Lion King
The Little Mermaid
Lady And The Tramp
The Sword In The Stone
For other movie reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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