‘Bolt’ has a lot of heart
Los Angeles Daily News
Aspen, CO Colorado
Upon first glance, the title canine in Disney Animation’s charming new offering, “Bolt,” seems like he must belong to The Incredibles’ household. The dog ” a white shepherd ” owns a sonic-boom bark, steel-bending laser vision and super-duper strength, all utilized to protect his beloved owner, Penny.
To safeguard this young girl, Bolt would gladly dangle a car full of bad guys by its bumper over a suspension bridge. Like all dogs, Bolt operates with loyalty as his guiding force. In fact, Bolt is so focused on protecting and serving that he’s unable to relax and do things ” sleep, chew stuff, sleep, play, sleep ” that normal dogs do.
The rub here, as you probably already know, is that Bolt (voiced by John Travolta with a nice mixture of bravado and tenderness) has been duped by a bunch of Hollywood phonies. Bolt is really a TV dog, and the producers of his television show want him to buy into the reality of his powers ” and the constant peril faced by Penny (Miley Cyrus)” in order to put some bite into his performance. He is a Method dog without knowing it.
When Bolt’s employers push the reality envelope too far, it sends Bolt on a journey back home and, more importantly, to his True Self.
That’s the heart of this affecting, meta family film, which is essentially a “Homeward Bound” for a more media-savvy generation.
“Bolt” is directed by Disney Animation vets Chris Williams and Byron Howard, but John Lasseter’s Hawaiian-shirt-wearing presence looms large over the movie. This is Disney’s first animated feature since Pixar’s Lasseter took over the company, and his touch is evident from the first frame. Like Uncle Walt (Disney), Lasseter believes that “for every laugh, there should be a tear.”
Which is another way of saying that movies should have heart, a quality in short supply in Disney animated offerings this decade.
(“Chicken Little” anyone?)
You won’t need to keep a pack of tissue at the ready here, but “Bolt” does have some lump-in-the-throat moments courtesy of a vividly drawn, huggable main character you grow to love.
Then again, brave Bolt’s almost-spiritual journey might take a back seat (in your kids’ eyes, at least) to the antics of an excitable hamster named Rhino (voiced by Disney animator Mark Walton). Bolt meets Rhino and a scrappy cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) on his journey home. The overweight Rhino rolls around in his plastic exercise ball, always believing in Bolt’s greatness and, without fail, stealing every scene he’s in.
Rhino is proof that having heart in your movie is fine. Having a couple of Miley Cyrus songs as a cross-marketing tool is OK, too. But little kids dig funny animals above all else. Don’t believe me? Ask the Beverly Hills Chihuahua.
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