March 11, 2010

Bolt (2008)

ONCE AGAIN, my wife and I have dipped our toes into PG-rated waters with Dash and Jack-Jack. (Previous toe-dipping includes The Incredibles and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs.) This week’s parentally-guided film: Disney’s 2008 feature Bolt.

Plot:
Bolt (John Travolta) is the canine star of his own TV show, where every week he saves his human friend Penny (Miley Cyrus) from the clutches of evil Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell). However, Bolt believes that everything that happens on his show is real. At the end of shooting a cliffhanger episode, Bolt believes Penny’s actually been kidnapped by Dr. Calico – prompting Bolt to escape the Hollywood set of his show to “rescue” her. He winds up falling into a shipping box and sent to New York City, where he recruits the help of alley cat Mittens (Susie Essman) to get him back home to Los Angeles and reunite with Penny. While stopping to beg for food at an RV campsite, Bolt and Mittens meet Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster in an exercise ball who also happens to be a huge fan of Bolt’s TV show (which Rhino also thinks is real). Needless to say, Rhino doesn’t hesitate to join Bolt and Mittens on their journey, hoping to encounter danger along the way.

Critique:

Compared to Pixar’s vastly superior films, Disney’s own CGI features have sputtered a bit – producing the pretty good (Chicken Little) as well as the forgettable (The Wild). But with Bolt, the Mouse House take a sizable step forward, thanks largely to a solid script by Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams that focuses on storytelling and character development with minimal pop culture references (I’m looking at you, DreamWorks).

There are also lots of funny scenes and sequences woven throughout the story, including Mittens teaching Bolt the proper way to beg; a hilarious trio of Noo Yawk pigeons (voiced by Lino DiSalvo, Todd Cummings, and Tim Mertens); and an ongoing bit about the supposed Kryptonite-like powers of Styrofoam.

In addition to a strong story and characters, the animation of this Disney-only production is nearly on par with its Disney/Pixar brethren. None of this should come as a shock, since Pixar co-founder (and Disney Chief Creative Officer) John Lasseter executive-produced the film.

Bolt is enjoyable to watch, not contrived or derived. It’s definitely a contender for repeat viewings – and it’ll have a longer shelf life than the latest Madagascar or Shrek sequel. Here’s hoping the Pixar influence continues to help Disney’s own animated films blossom.

Tidbits:
* In addition to several Annie Award nominations, Bolt was also nominated for a 2008 Oscar for Best Animated Film, but there was another nominee that deservedly won.
* Much like Lou Romano (Linguini) in Ratatouille, Disney writer/animator Walton got the job as the voice of Rhino from the strength of his “scratch track” (a recording used as a temporary placeholder during the recording and editing process).

Rating:

What did Dash think?
* Dash really liked it, and hands-down the biggest hit for both him and Jack-Jack was Rhino. They were talking about and quoting that little hamster for days afterwards, particularly a little victory song and dance Rhino does to celebrate a daring escape.
* In the better-late-than-never department: With about 20 minutes left in the film, Jack-Jack asked us, “Why is the white dog talking?”

Is it suitable for your kids?
Bolt is rated PG for “mild action and peril.” To wit: Bolt is chased by bad guys who launch rockets at him, and helicopters are blown up with pilots inside them (both part of Bolt's TV show); Bolt dangles Mittens over a busy highway; and there’s a fiery climax that may be a bit much for very young children. There’s also one use of pepper spray and one scene of dog butt-sniffing.

Will your FilmMother like it?
Very much so. Bolt has all the ingredients of a winning film: good story, good animation, laughs, themes of friendship and believing in yourself. In fact, if you don’t have kids or they’re too little to watch, it’s also a great rental for grown-ups, too.

“Well it’s-a Greased Lightninnn’ (Bolt)!”
Y’know, because John Travolta sang that song in Grease,
and he’s the voice of Bolt…

Lightning...Bolt...Lightning bolt.
Whatever. Think you can do better?

Bolt
* Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
* Screenwriters: Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams
* Stars: John Travolta, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell
* MPAA Rating: PG (mild action and peril)

7 comments:

Daddy Geek Boy said...

I really like this movie, as does my son. It was his first in the theater, so it'll always have a special place in my heart.

And the action sequence at the beginning is one of the strongest in any Hollywood movie in a while--live action included.

Copyboy said...

Wow. Very thorough review. Cool blog as well.

Jesse
http://jesseacohen.blogspot.com/

Cal's Canadian Cave of Coolness said...

I left an award for you at my site if you like those kind of things.

Pat Tillett said...

Hi there, I ran across your link at Cal's and thought I'd take a look. I like what I found. If you don't mind, I'm going to tag along.
thanks

Bill Thompson said...

Really liked this movie when I saw it in the theaters a couple of years ago. It is a nice blend of adult and childlike sensibilities.

Jay Amabile said...

I recorded this off cable a while back and never got a chance to watch it...I'll have to dig it out! Thanks for the recommendation!

Download Movies said...

Bolt it's a cute film, which is very enjoyable from beginning to end.The movie has great animation. I would like to watch this film once again :))

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