Bolt

Bolt

***

Reviewed by: Tony Sullivan

Bolt (John Travolta) is a hound possessed of canine superpowers and his mission is to protect Penny (Miley Cyrus) from the evil schemes of Dr Calico (Malcolm McDowell). At least on the television show that carries his name, that is.

Bolt is the ultimate method actor, he believes the world of the TV show to be reality, so when he finds himself cut adrift from the sets and special effects and an Incredible Journey-style adventure to find Penny in the REAL world it is something of a rude awakening.

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Aided in his quest by New York City street cat, Mittens (Susie Essman) and a redoubtable rodent named Rhino (Mark Walton) he sets out to reach LA from NYC.

Despite Disney and Pixar being in cahoots in the Computer Animation stakes, Bolt marks Disney's fourth solo CGI effort and their second in 3-D after Meet The Robinsons.

The Pixar product is easily ahead of their sibling rival in the quality stakes. The bonus, though, is that 3-D gimmick. Let's try to clarify that. In 1995, with Toy Story, Pixar produced the first feature-length computer animated film where the characters and settings had height, width and depth rather than have their depth suggested by the use of multiplane camera (Bambi) or the use of shadow (Who Framed Roger Rabbit?).

The next complication is that Bolt is projected (in select cinemas, anyway) with a 3-D technique that requires the viewer to sport polarized glasses to see the benefit. Yes, the old glasses trick that used to consist of the headache-inducing alternate red/green lenses is, courtesy of brighter digital projection and more robust glasses, a much happier experience than in times past.

Bolt has a maturity over its predecessors in that the film doesn't obsess over its need to stick something in your face every few minutes, like the recent Brendan Fraser opus, Journey To The Centre Of The Earth and most other 3-D movies (including the John C Holmes porno extravaganza M 3-D, about which I shall say no more). The result is rather a pleasing heightened reality that gives the extended chase opening of the feature some extra thrills that a similar scene in The Matrix Reloaded would have benefitted from.

Action is one thing, but how about character? Disney seem to have been working on this by thoroughly studying the Pixar material, rather than their own back catalogue. We have to give them a B for trying, at least. Cyrus' winsome Penny and Travolta's Bolt areā€¦ sufficient, but the show belongs to Susie Essman's alley cat, Mittens, who gets the single juiciest line I've heard from any animated character in a while.

During a midway montage, Miley Cyrus contributes a country-ish song. She has an excellent singing voice for someone that just turned 16, but it still set me searching for the FF button on a non-existent remote control.

Good family entertainment, one that gets the full no-squirmmals-extra-contentment seal of approval from my press-ganged eight-year-old viewer. One you should buy on DVD if you don't see it in glorious 3-D on the big screen, but it will not be one of those pedestal-placed animated classics that are remembered with fondness down through the ages.

Reviewed on: 02 Dec 2008
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A TV superdog genuinely believes he has superpowers... until he finds himself caught up in an all-too-real life adventure.
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Director: Byron Howard, Chris Williams

Writer: Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams

Starring: Voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Greg Germann, Diedrich Bader, Nick Swardson, J.P. Manoux

Year: 2008

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: U - Universal

Country: US

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