Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Bolt (2008)

BOLT (2008) is a very enjoyable animated Disney film. Its pleasures include on-target portrayals of dog and cat behavior as well as a satiric look at Hollywood and network television. The movie proved to be quite a pleasant surprise.

I think I was put off trying BOLT when it was originally released due to the lead voice actors, John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, in whom I have zero interest. By the time I watched the movie on a recent plane trip I had completely forgotten who was in the voice cast! I didn't recognize their voices so I was able to enjoy the film without my unenthused impressions of the actors influencing my opinion.

I watched the film on my iPad thanks to Disney's Movies Anywhere app; my daughter is a BOLT fan, and I'd purchased the DVD for her as a gift a few years ago. Since I'd input the Disney Movie Rewards code at the time I bought it, the movie was automatically loaded into my Disney Movies Anywhere library when Disney launched the app earlier this year.

Bolt (Travolta) is a doggy TV star, but he doesn't know it. His handlers believe Bolt's "acting" will be more effective if he doesn't see the cameras or special effects, so when he regularly saves his young owner Penny (Cyrus) from the bad guys, he thinks it's real and that he has superpowers. When Penny locks Bolt in his trailer each night after filming, he has no idea where she goes.

Circumstances separate Bolt and Penny, and as Bolt is exposed to the "real world" he gradually comes to realize that he's an ordinary dog. He knows, though, that Penny is his "person" and is confident that their relationship is more than acting.

Bolt sets out on a long cross-country road trip to find Penny, aided by Mittens the stray cat (Susie Essman) and Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster in an exercise ball who's an enthusiastic fan of Bolt's TV series.

Like the recently seen BIG HERO 6 (2014), the film is derivative; three animals, including a dog and cat, on a long journey has been done by Disney not once but twice! (That would be THE INCREDIBLE JOURNEY, filmed in 1963 and 1993.) There's also a touch of LADY AND THE TRAMP (1955), as a sheltered dog learns about the tough world from a stray.

Despite the familiarity, I felt that overall this film worked better than BIG HERO 6, thanks to a solid screenplay, which at 96 minutes is better paced than BIG HERO 6's 102 minutes.

BOLT's script has a nice sense of humor mixed with touches of poignance; the scene where Mittens admits to having been abandoned by her previous owner packs a wallop, but the funny scenes keep the film from being too emotional. The pointed barbs about network executives are quite amusing, and there are some delightful bits with the animals, such as Bolt learning to beg. I liked this one a lot.

The supporting voice cast includes Malcolm McDowell as the TV show villain, James Lipton as the director, and Greg Germann as Penny's smarmy, work-obsessed agent. The additional voice actors include Anne Lockhart, granddaughter of Gene and Kathleen, and daughter of June.

BOLT was directed by Byron Howard and Chris Williams.

Parental Advisory: This film is rated PG for "mild action and peril." In my opinion it's a family-friendly Disney film.

BOLT is available on DVD or in a Blu-ray/DVD combo pack.



Blogger DKoren said...

Like you, I had similar issues with the voice actors, until I actually saw the movie. Then, I never noticed. My B-i-L says this is the only John Travolta movie he likes.

I ended up seeing this one quite a lot as my nephew really loved it. I'm really fond of Rhino, who is totally crazy, but cool.

We quote the pigeons a lot. "Turn, and pull."

And I would also rank this one higher than Big Hero 6. The latter was certainly beautiful, and there were some really great moments, but overall, it didn't quite connect with me as much. My nieces and nephew, however, really loved it.

6:21 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Hi Deb, so nice to hear from you! I really enjoyed hearing your takes on this and BIG HERO 6. Loved the pigeons too! They were great. :)

Wishing you and your family a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Best wishes,

9:14 PM  

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