Directed by Chris Williams, Byron Howard
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 anamorphic
Running Time: 96 minutes
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 EX English, French, Spanish; 2.0 stereo surround English
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 29.99
Release Date: March 24, 2009
Review Date: March 15, 2009
The Walt Disney Company has recently been in something of a canine craze. First there were Space Buddies and Beverly Hills Chihuahua, and now there is Bolt. Regardless, Bolt leaves its brother features in the proverbial dust. It’s a very funny, often touching, and completely ingratiating adventure comedy. The fact that it’s a CGI animated feature seems almost not to matter. Its humor and its heart earn it tons of good will that it cashes in at all the right moments. Much more immersive than Disney’s last non-Pixar animated film Meet the Robinsons, Bolt grabs you early and doesn’t let go until its sweetly sentimental end.
Television wonder dog Bolt (John Travolta) has no clue that he’s not the super dog he plays on television (he‘s actually not aware he is on television). One night, running out from his comfortable trailer on the studio lot, he gets accidentally boxed up and sent to New York City. Completely befuddled by his surroundings, the loss of his powers, and the absence of his owner Penny (Miley Cyrus), he sets out on a cross country trip to return to his “person.” Aiding him are a wise-acre alley cat Mittens (Susie Essman) and TV addict Rhino the hamster (Mark Walton), who, being a fan of his show, worships Bolt unconditionally.
Yes, we’re in The Incredible Journey territory here with the story penned by Dan Fogelman and director Chris Williams. It’s not a problem, however, since the men have concocted an entertaining array of transportation modes and adventures between each ride they manage to catch. As it slowly dawns on Bolt that his powers are not temporarily gone but were never actually there to begin with, we begin to experience the dog’s disappointment and begin to root even harder for his small but significant victories. The writing and directing of the movie are very savvy to engage the audience’s sympathies in this way, and it doesn’t hurt to have the wisecracks of Mittens and several groups of know-it-all pigeons to temper the pathos. And if they aren’t enough to keep the laughs flowing, there is the hyperactive, take-no-prisoners enthusiasm of Rhino to leaven any mawkishness that might creep into the film’s tone. What’s more, some of the film’s action sequences are really terrific fun. We get to see one of the typical super capers that Bolt triumphs with on his television show in an extended ten minute sequence that comes near the beginning of the picture, and it’s a truly stupendous animated sequence, quite on a par with the great action sequence work in Pixar’s masterful The Incredibles. But later “real-world” exploits like the rescue of Mittens from the dog pound or the climactic studio fire sequence with Penny trapped as flames and smoke surround her are no less skillfully managed. In terms of sophisticated animation and a heartfelt story, Bolt is unquestionably Disney’s best-yet effort at a CGI animated feature without the Pixar seal of approval.
The voice casting is first rate. John Travolta gives a frisky demeanor to the title character, and nails the realization scene when Bolt’s super worldview comes crashing down around him. Susie Essman’s Mittens is the smart and sassy kitty who, in one of the movie’s most precious moments, gives Bolt lessons on how to beg food from humans. Mark Walton as the worshipful Rhino steals every scene he’s in with a pluck and passion that keeps the audience watching for his every word or deed. In lesser roles, Miley Cyrus does fine with Bolt’s owner Penny while Malcolm McDowell is delicious evil personified as Dr. Calico, Bolt’s longtime scourge on his television program. James Lipton gets to be as unctuous in CGI as he is on his Actor’s Studio program as Bolt’s TV director while Greg Germann as Bolt’s agent has the sniveling insincerity down pat.
The film is framed at 1.78:1 and is anamorphically enhanced for widescreen televisions. Though some theaters featured a 3-D version of the movie, the version presented on the video release is 2-D, but the lack of three dimensions doesn’t really impact the film’s very real entertainment value. The transfer does a very good job capturing the colors and textures of the various locales the trio visit on their journey back to California though the animators have chosen a rather warm palette for the movie that doesn‘t really embrace bright, deeply saturated color. Artifact free with no trace of banding, the picture is immaculate and imminently pleasurable to watch. The film has been divided into 16 chapters.
The Dolby Digital 5.1 EX track is a very fine audio presentation. The first ten minutes that features a remarkable action sequence from Bolt’s television series is as active and astounding as any modern action movie with expert use of all of the surround channels and with notable deep bass. The rear surround channel isn’t exploited quite enough to earn the transfer a perfect audio score, but there will be few complainers with the sound design of the action sequences. Elsewhere, the track also does a good job when things settle down allowing the lovely “That Home Belongs to You” song to resonate through the soundfield adding the proper touch of poignancy to the proceedings.
“Super Rhino” is a 4 ½ minute short feature with Rhino the hamster as the star of his own Bolt adventure. It’s presented in anamorphic widescreen.
The disc contains previews (some in widescreen, some in full frame) of Monsters, Inc, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, The Princess and the Frog, The Black Cauldron, Lilo & Stitch, Schoolhouse Rock: Earth, and Bedtime Stories.
Bolt may not have the sophistication and story mastery of the Pixar masterworks, but that aside, Bolt proves itself to be a sweet and thoroughly engaging yarn whose very familiarity will make it enjoyable for the entire family. Recommended!