Reel Society

Reviews for the latest movies in theaters and on DVD.

Bolt

 

Review by Patrick Hodges

Bolt is a movie that will most assuredly not be listed among the pantheon of the greatest Disney animated films of all time.  As far as its story goes, it doesn’t hold a candle to modern-day classics like The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast or Aladdin.  That being said, it’s not a bad film.  Bolt is sweet, funny at times, with plenty of “Awww!” moments and a predictably happy ending, which is pretty much the norm for Disney animated fare. 

The very first “Awww!” moment comes in the opening scene, when a little girl named Penny (Miley Cyrus) goes into a pet store and picks out an absolutely adorable white German Shepherd, which she names – of course – Bolt.  Fast-forward to five-years later, where we see Bolt and Penny trying to save Penny’s kidnapped father from the clutches of the evil Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell), complete with a well-realized chase scene and culminating in Bolt using his numerous “super-powers” to defeat a whole horde of bad guys.

Of course, this throw-down is merely the set for a hit television show, of which Bolt and Penny are the main characters.  Unfortunately, the creators of the show have orchestrated everything so precisely that Bolt is utterly convinced that everything that happens is real, including his super-powers.  But when a mishap accidentally has Bolt stuck in a box bound for New York, he doggedly (heh) tries to get back so he can save Penny, who he still believe to be in danger.

Along the way, Bolt (John Travolta) makes the acquaintance of Mittens (Susie Essman), a street-wise cat who Bolt believes is part of the evil plot, and Rhino (Mark Walton), an overweight, television-obsessed hamster who is Bolt’s biggest fan.  As they traverse the country, Mittens gradually forms a bond with Bolt which is really quite heartwarming.

At its heart, Bolt is basically a buddy picture, with a fair amount of action and comedy thrown in.  Rhino provides most of the comic relief, which will have moviegoers of all ages laughing.  The scenes where Mittens teaches Bolt how to behave like a “real dog” are also quite uproarious.  (Picture:  Mittens and Bolt sitting by a toilet, and then Bolt turns to Mittens and says incredulously, “Out of THERE?”)
Obviously, Disney isn’t reinventing the wheel with Bolt.  It will not break box office records or hold as high a place in your (or your child’s) heart like some of the classic Disney or Pixar films.  But you will enjoy it.  And really, that’s all that matters, isn’t it?
3 ½ / 5 stars
 
 
 
 

Review by Stuart Bland

There used to be a time when the name Disney on a product was a sign of quality and a guaranteed box office draw. Even as recently as 1993, when The Lion King devoured all its competitors with monster takings above $300 million and one of the most stunning animations ever. However, since the millennium Disney has looked a little out of sorts as the likes of DreamWorks and most notably Pixar have taken the reigns of quality and successful animation. During that time, Disney has slumped to some pretty pitiful storylines and some awful box office figures. They had been left at the gates while their competitors had raced ahead and stolen all the winnings. Once the leader of the pack, Disney looked a shadow of its former self.

This appeared set to continue with Disney’s latest animated offering, Bolt, which had been struggling through a troubled production and a discarded director. However, following the amalgamation of Disney with Pixar, co-founder John Lasseter and CGI pioneer Ed Catmull stepped in to rework the storyline and characters. Tightening up the visuals so that the came up to scratch with its competition, Bolt certainly benefited from this teaming. However, despite the importance of good animation, it is in the narrative and character development that Bolt really succeeds. Rather than relying on pop-culture one-liners and star-studded casts to market the movie (for which my general disdain of DreamWorks animation is rooted), Bolt is an action packed, excitement brimming adrenaline rush with a fully involving story and fully developed characters its audience find likeable.

Taking pointers from The Incredibles for its action scenes, Bolt a German shepherd, is the star of a TV action series in which he is an immensely powerful super-dog. However, in order to maintain the realism for the show, Bolt has been shielded from the outside world (a la The Truman Show) and led to believe he has powers such as heat-vision, super strength and the almighty ‘super bark’. However, when the shows developers decide a cliffhanger episode is required in which his beloved owner Penny is kidnapped, Bolt tries to save her and is accidentally transported from Hollywood to New York.

In a desperate effort to reunite with Penny, Bolt starts on a journey back home, helped out by a couple of new friends along the way: a street-wise New York cat named mittens and a rotund television-junkie hamster named Rhino. However, while finding out he does not have such super-powers as he believed, Bolt instead finds his inner canine while dealing with unforced themes of friendship and being true to oneself.

Bolt is an almighty success, combining a sharp, witty script with superb storytelling and fantastic animation, especially so if viewed in 3-D. The voice actors do not dominate the movie as with previous animated incarnations, but rather mould their voices to suit the character. All this leads to a highly enjoyable experience, and giving hope that maybe, just maybe, with the help of Pixar Disney is heading back in the right direction.

4 / 5 stars

 

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