Bolt Directed by: Byron Howard, Chris Williams Cast (voices): John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton Running Time: 1 hr 30 min Rating: PG
Plot: This animated movie has Bolt (Travolta) the dog as the star of the biggest television show, but he doesn’t understand that none of it is real. When he believes his television owner, Penny (Cyrus), has been kidnapped, he escapes from his handlers and ends up alone, and without his special effects powers, on the streets of New York.
Who’s It For? Kids who don’t scare easily. It’s mildly enjoyable for adults, but, honestly, it might give young children nightmares.
Expectations: From the previews, I thought I was going to really like this movie. I have a weakness for smart animation with subverted veins of adult humor.
Actors: John Travolta as Bolt: Travolta does Bolt a lot of justice. He captures the subtler emotions and manages to keep from sounding too over-the-top whenever Bolt is making dramatic declarations about besting evil, saving the day, protecting the world from the green-eyed man, etc. I always appreciate it when a big-name actor takes an animated role seriously. Score: 6
Miley Cyrus as Penny: I wish I was a teeny-bopper—wait, no I don’t. At least, if I were a youthful, impressionable girl, Cyrus’s raspy, quasi-smoker’s growl would do something for me. Cyrus does a fair job, but there is nothing out of the ordinary about her performance. Score: 4
Susie Essman as Mittens: Essman really digs deep and brings out her inner cat. The character itself is predictable, but innocuously so, and Mittens does bring a nice jaded spark to the dog & hamster daring duo. Score: 5
Mark Walton as Rhino: Based on the previews, I was the most excited about the hardcore, kick-ass hamster, Rhino. But ultimately, the character was just okay. The idea of Rhino is extremely funny and the animation is excellent, but Walton hams it up when he should’ve toned it down. Since it’s now an official word in the dictionary: meh. Score: 4
Talking: The dialogue is strong and the actors, most notably Travolta and Essman, breathe a lot of life and meaning into each word. Like a lot of these types of so-so animated flicks, the side characters end up stealing most the scenes. Like the two cats practicing their evil laugh, or the most brilliant ... the trio of West Coast pigeons pitching a movie idea to Bolt. There aren’t enough of those moments, however. Score: 6
Sights: The effects are phenomenal. They were designed to capture the unique movements and body language of specific types of animals and it does an extremely good job. The pigeons are especially impressive, because the movie mates the voices with the twitchy, birdliness so perfectly. As for the 3D, it wasn’t anything exceptional—I was extremely impressed by Beowulf in 3D, and I barely noticed it in Bolt. Score: 7
Sounds: The score works for the action scenes, again, without being anything new or interesting. It is your typical "racing the clock/someone in peril" score. John Travolta and Miley Cyrus duet together on the forgettable "I Thought I Lost You." "Barking at the Moon" by Jenny Lewis is enjoyable and it works well for the traveling montage. Score: 6
Best Scene: There are a lot of exciting action sequences, which, again, might scare the crap out of younger kids. The best scene is a montage where Mittens the cat teaches Bolt how to be a real dog, including, showing him how to fetch a stick, play with other dogs, and enjoy the cool breeze as his head is out the window.
Ending: The climax is predictable as it reads on the page, yet really scary and intense on the big screen. The very ending is appropriately and unsurprisingly coochy-coo.
Questions: Who the heck was their target audience? It’s just okay for adults and, again, it scared the crap out of all the kids.
Rewatchability: Not for grown-ups. I’d say the movie works best for anyone in the age group of 10 to 12, but that’s a pretty narrow margin. It’ll bore an older crowd, and frighten a younger crowd.
The movie stays firmly rooted in average with a couple of amusing scenes and some heartwarming moments—heartwarming as in microwaved, not held aloft over a crackling fire. Whereas Pixar puts a lot of soul into their movies, Bolt feels more like it’s straight off the conveyor belt. The animation is great and the writing is fair, and it never achieves any new level of originality or creativity.
Final Score: 5/10