November 21, 2008


It's raining cats and dogs...and hamsters

Grade: C +

Director: Byron Howard and Chris Williams

Starring the voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcom McDowell, James Lipton, and Greg Germann

MPAA Rating: PG

Running Time: 1 hour, 36 minutes

As far as non-Pixar Disney Animation movies go, Bolt is a cut above the norm. The star of this 3D spectacle is the titular dog (voiced by John Travolta), a small White Shepard that has lived his whole life as the star of his own action TV show, in which he possesses superpowers and does battle alongside his owner, a young girl named Penny (Miley Cyrus). After Bolt gets accidentally air-mailed off the studio lot, he embarks on a cross-country journey back to Hollywood, aided by a loner feline (Susie Essman) and an over-caffeinated, TV-addicted hamster (Mark Walton).

Along the way, Bolt discovers his own frailties and the value of friendship. The audience discovers an entertaining hodgepodge of wry gags buttressing a pedestrian plot drawn from a variety of influences. Obvious echoes of The Truman Show reverberate, and there is an anti-Incredibles vibe to the notion that Bolt achieves happiness only after he sheds the illusion of being exceptional and accepts the joys of normalcy – frolicking in yard sprinklers, burying bones, and the like. The lightening bolt birthmark emblazoned across Bolt’s midsection proves as phony as his superpowers (a not-so thinly-veiled slap at Harry Potter?).

A cleverer plot would delve more into a variation of the query posed in Truman Show: Is it better live an extraordinary fantasy or a mundane reality? Alas, there are more pressing concerns to address, like a tidy ending and cross-promotional marketing opportunities. Bolt bears the earmarks of good breeding, but it ends up a mutt whose dramatic bite does not match its bark.

Neil Morris

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