Despite all of the great things I'd heard and read about
Bolt (James was certainly a fan), I couldn't help but be a little bit skeptical as I sat down to watch it a few nights ago. After all, the main character — super-powered (or so he thinks) doggy Bolt — is voiced by John Travolta, and Miley Cyrus lends her pipes to the character of Penny, Bolt's owner. Travolta and Cyrus just so happen to be two of my least favorite celebrities on this planet. Could Bolt's animation, action and story outweigh my bias against Mr. Wild Hog and Ms. Hannah Montana?
Thankfully, the answer is "yes."
Perhaps I was able to enjoy the movie because Penny/Cyrus wasn't in it that much, or because Bolt didn't sound overly Travolta-ish. In fact, if I wasn't aware of whose voice was behind the courageous canine, I'm not sure I could've guessed correctly. (Which makes me wonder why studios shell out big bucks for celebrities to be involved in their animated films… but I digress.) Instead of grumbling about the characters' voices, I found myself laughing at how much I could relate to the story of a puppy who — having spent the majority of his life within the confines of a TV studio — isn't aware that he doesn't actually have the special abilities he appears to have on the set. It's kind of like how my black lab has no idea that he's not King of the Universe and all of our lives aren't revolving around his every move.
I can keep the charade up for my dog, but when Bolt escapes from his trailer and ends up on the east coast, he has to learn the hard way that he might be a little more ordinary than he'd previously assumed. He hooks up with a streetwise stray cat, Mittens (Susie Essman) and an overzealous hamster, Rhino (Mark Walton), and begins his journey back to Hollywood.
This is a Disney movie, so no one has to worry about whether or not there will be a happy ending for Bolt, but I will say that there are a few twists and turns in the plot that kept me on the edge of my seat. I was also pleasantly surprised by how genuinely funny much of the dialogue was… especially when dim-witted pigeons were involved.
Overall, I liked Bolt a lot more than other animal-centric films I've seen recently, such as Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Beverly Hills Chihuahua. But I didn't find it superior to the likes of Wall-E, Toy Story, Finding Nemo, or pretty much any of the other Pixar and Disney movies. Still, if you generally appreciate these types of films, I'm sure you'll also enjoy Bolt. You can check out its trailer here, and if you end up renting it, be sure to catch the "Super Rhino" DVD extra, it's hilarious!
For those of you who have seen the film, you may be interested in this interview Rhino gave to E! news. The kicker is that it was actually done in real-time.
Will somebody give this little critter a feature-length spin-off already?