Monday, December 1, 2008


I went to the early showing of Bolt yesterday, managing to avoid the long lines. The crowd was surprisingly mixed, with predominately younger children, but a few teenagers mixed in. My ten year old son seemed to have plenty of company in his age group. The target audience for this film seemed to be pre-teen, but there was plenty of good stuff for all age groups.

Bolt tells the story of a dog, by the same name, who is a Hollywood superstar. The only problem seems to be that no one has told Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) that he is simply an animal actor. The Producers of his television series keep Bolt in the dark regarding his superpowers, opting to allow him to believe he really has special powers. It seems that they are able to capture more meaningful expressions from the dog because he really believes he is protecting his human, Penny (Miley Cyrus). Penny wants Bolt to simply live a normal dog life, but her agent (Greg German) seems to like to burst her bubble. When Bolt escapes his studio in an attempt to save Penny, he ends up on a cross country trip that reveals his sheltered past and exposes him to the truth about his powers. The learning process creates opportunities for some fun diversions. Bolt is assisted on his journey by a cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) and a hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton).

The writers, Dan Fogelman (who also provided the voice for a pigeon) and Chris Williams (who co-Directed with Byron Howard), put together a decent diversion filled with interesting characters. Animated films are generally predictable. Targeted towards younger audiences, I generally don’t expect a lot in the way of plot twists. However, Bolt manages to make the journey fun, with plenty of great dialogue and interesting characters. Some of the characters are flat and predictable with clear lines regarding who the good guys and bad guys are. But the characters that count are interesting, with quirks that are fun to observe. One concept worked into the film involved pigeons, who represent their respective regions with appropriate dialect. The pigeons in New York sound like wise guys, while the California pigeons have a distinct Hollywood sound. We even get to see some Country pigeons. The pigeons were a brilliant idea. As a whole, the writing provided interesting subject matter and unique characters, making Bolt a fresh new animated release.

The casting was strong, with some heavy hitters in the line-up. Although the strength of the “acting” comes from the animation, the voice-overs were great. John Travolta provided the majority of the voice work, while Miley Cyrus had a fairly large role. The two of them worked well together. Susie Essman seemed to have a bigger role than Cyrus, providing a bit of the drama in the film. Mark Walton was the best of the animated voices as an over-zealous television fanatic hamster that wants to be an action hero like Bolt. Walton delivered his sharply written lines with the kind of enthusiasm that made the part credible. The animation that accompanied his parts were fun to watch…a hamster with histrionic non-verbal gestures that were bigger than life. The pigeon voice work was also exceptional. They pigeons captured the essence of their communities in sharply delivered performances that seemed to transcend the limitations of the animation.

Read More About Bolt

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