Review by Michael Jacobson
Voices: John Travolta,
Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton
Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
Audio: DTS HD 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.78:1
Studio: Walt Disney
Features: See Review
Length: 96 Minutes
Release Date: March 22, 2009
“What are you doing?”
“Stay back! If I stare at the lock really hard, it’ll burst into flames and melt!”
“Now I’m concerned on a number of levels.”
There are all kinds of stories about superheroes…but what about a superhero that doesn’t know he’s a work of fiction?
That’s the very smart premise of Bolt, a computer animated offering from the Walt Disney Studios without the aid of Pixar. It’s a cute tale with a terrific idea at heart, but doesn’t quite seem to explore more of the possibilities the story has to offer.
It’s about Bolt (Travolta) and his person Penny (Cyrus). They’ve been together for five years, and of late, they are the stars of a big television show, where Penny is constantly in peril, and Bolt, as a genetically altered dog with super speed, strength and heat vision, constantly has to save Penny and the world.
The problem? Bolt has no idea it’s a TV show. In a manner of method acting that would make Daniel Day-Lewis jealous, Bolt actually believes the dramatic situations are for real, his precious Penny is really in jeopardy, and that his special-effects aided powers are genuine.
But when one season ends in a cliffhanger, what is Bolt to do? Separated from Penny and believing her to be in danger, he sets out into the real world for the first time like the hero he is, but without the powers he thinks he has. Along the way he recruits a street smart alley cat named Mittens (Essman) and a hyper hamster in a ball called Rhino (Walton). Rhino is a big fan of Bolt and is living the dream to be on an adventure with him. Mittens? Well, she thinks Bolt is a couple of kibbles shy of a bag of dog food.
What follows is pretty by-the-numbers. Bolt thinks he can do amazing feats, can’t quite accomplish them, and eventually has to come to terms with the fact that he is not what he always believed. But just because we don’t have powers doesn’t mean we’re not special, right? And anyone with love in his or her heart can certainly be a hero. All they need is a chance to prove it.
Bolt gets his chance, of course, demonstrating that every dog does indeed have his day. And Bolt is a pleasant, well-cast and enjoyable animated offering. My main complaints are that one, I thought there was a lot more room for comedy here, and the laughs were a little infrequent, and two, the only way Bolt can come to terms with his reality is for him to actually get a bit hurt from time to time…not my idea of fun, and probably the sole reason for the film’s PG rating.
John Travolta is very winning as the stalwart but misguided title character, and Miley Cyrus is warm and sweet as Penny. Perhaps the best casting choice was Mark Walton, who injects Rhino with a kind of maniacal fan-boy energy that really made for the movie’s most delightful moments.
As I stated before, this was a wonderful idea for an animated film. It might have needed just a little more fleshing out and a little more thought. Certainly one or two more comedy-oriented writers. Bolt is a good recipe that just required a little more cooking time.
Beautiful…animation and high definition are a perfect marriage, and this exemplary Disney Blu-ray offering shows exactly why. This is an eye-popping cornucopia of colors and vibrant, crisp images that render and balance with absolute perfection throughout. Not one flaw to be found. Animation is one of the best indicators of how superior the Blu-ray format really is; it almost always looks fantastic on DVD, but in high definition, a whole new visual feast opens up before your eyes.
The DTS HD soundtrack is quite nice, though maybe a little less demanding that some Blu-ray offerings. There are tasteful uses of the surround sounds and a fair amount of dynamic range, and all voices and effects blend well against the background sounds and music.
Plenty of amusing extras to be had on this Disney Blu-ray release. You get a bonus short film featuring Rhino called “Super Rhino”, which is zany and fun! You also get a pair of deleted scenes with optional director introductions, a look at the recording of the theme song “I Thought I Lost You” with Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, as well as their music video for the song, plus a look at the creation of the movie, a look at the directors, and a peek at the voice sessions. Mark Walton, who voiced Rhino, was actually a story man at the studio who was helping out by recording ‘scratch’ voice takes to use…he was so good, they had to cast him!
There is also an art gallery and an interactive game, “Bolt’s Be-Awesome Mission”, as well as some previews and BD LIVE for those with internet capable players. Rounding out are two bonus discs; one for a digital copy of the movie, and one DVD of the film for those making the transition to Blu-ray!
Bolt offers some good animated fun and makes for a beautiful and solidly-packaged Blu-ray release, but just falls a little short of what we’ve come to expect from Disney.