Movie Review: Bolt

I have found few movies that could provide a truly moving experience. The Disney animated film Bolt is one of them. This movie excels at story, voice talent, characters, and animation.

One of the truly great elements of the movie is its thoroughly engaging story line. Bolt features a dog named Bolt (played by John Travolta) who thinks his made-for-TV superpowers are real. So when Bolt thinks that his owner, Penny (Miley Cyrus), has been kidnapped by the evil Dr. Calico, he sets off to find her only to fall into a packing crate and be shipped off to New York.

Once there, he sets out on a mission to return to Hollywood and “rescue” Penny. Aiding him on his quest is Mittens (Susie Essman), a tough-luck alley cat who Bolt believes to be one of Calico’s evil minions. The duo is soon joined by Rhino (Mark Walton), an excitable hamster who is one of Bolt’s greatest fans.

Along the way, there are several heartfelt moments when Bolt sheds his macho image and learns what it’s like to be an “regular dog.” Mittens also changes as she lets go of her tough attitude, and both animals are able to have fun on the journey. It almost feels like the plot takes a break and is replaced by some light-hearted humor and scripting that sometimes borders on “cutesy.”

The movie also features some highly capable acting. The character of Bolt is voiced by John Travolta who delivers a flawless performance and gives feeling to Bolt’s many moods. Susie Essman gives a sassy yet endearing character to the streetwise cat. Mark Walton also played the character of Rhino admirably, infusing the nutty, overly-dramatic rodent with a sense of believability and off-the-wall charm. Miley Cyrus, however, seemed, merely passable, never quite making the character of Penny her own.

The characters of Bolt are rich and full of emotion and character. Bolt acts boldly and initially behaves much like a regal knight. He believes fully in his role as a “superdog” fighting evil and protecting Penny from all harm. Mittens, however, is everything Bolt is not. A down-to-earth cynic with a penchant for extortion and no love of adventure she constantly fights against Bolt’s staunch desire to return home. The most over-the-top nutcase in this movie, though, is Rhino. Throughout much of the film, he provides comic relief with his outlandish voices and antics. This film is truly a melding of Disney magic and Pixar imagination.

I am hardly an expert on what constitutes good animation, but I found the animation in Bolt to be first-class. The expressions and emotions of the characters rival the work done by Pixar for Wall•E. I found myself captivated watching Mittens teach Bolt the “puppy-dog look.” The visual effects work was also excellent, especially in 3-D. The animals in Bolt were so expressive and believable that this movie does for quadrupeds what Wall•E  did for robots.

I would highly recommend this movie to anyone that enjoys good family films. If you’re unable to see it in theaters, then it is worth the wait to see it on video.