Bolt (2008)

Director:  Bryon Howard & Chris Williams
Cast:  John TravoltaMiley CyrusSusie Essman 

Plot:  The canine star of a fictional sci-fi/action show that believes his powers are real embarks on a cross country trek to save his co-star from a threat he believes is just as real.

Genre:  Animation / Adventure / Comedy
Awards:  Nom. for 1 Oscar - Best Animated Feature

Runtime:  96min
Rating:  G for some mild action and peril.


What do Pixar’s Wall-E, DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda, and Walt Disney’s Bolt have in common?  They will almost be certainly be nominated for Best Animated Feature in the upcoming Academy Awards.  Yes, we are all betting our life savings on Andrew Stanton bagging his second Oscar for Wall-E (he won it for Finding Nemo five years ago). But hey, take a closer look. 

Kung Fu Panda is the best animated film from DreamWorks since Shrek.  And Bolt is Disney’s most accomplished effort in recent years.  Even though these two films do not pose a serious threat to Wall-E’s award credentials, they are on their own, excellent examples of perfect entertainment for the whole family.

Bolt is written by Dan Fogelman and directed by newcomers Bryon Howard and Chris Williams, whose careers could not have gone off to a better start.  The film features eye-catching visuals and a wonderful plot.  These are the two factors that will make-or-break films of this genre. 

In the case of Bolt, I have never seen such brilliant images from a Disney picture before, a strong testament to the fact that they are slowly catching up with other giants of animation, if only they are consistent enough.  

The main characters, Bolt and Penny are voiced by John Travolta and Miley Cyrus respectively.  Cyrus’s first attempt at a feature-length voice-over role is assured and full of vitality, not a surprise as she has one of the best voices in her age group. 

An action-packed fifteen minute sequence introduces vi
ewers to the reel world of Bolt, the ‘SuperDog’.  He can bend metal bars, smash walls and burn stuff with his laser eyes.  With the help of visual effects and trick photography that is.  Bolt does not know he is just an ordinary dog forced to act in a TV series. 

Soon the chance presents itself which allows him to ‘escape from the reelity of Hollywood’.  Oblivious to the laws of reality, Bolt walks around like a proud peacock, attempting to show off his super powers to the friends he meets along the way - the black streetwise cat (Mittens), blur pigeons, and a Bolt-worshipping hamster (Rhino).

Bolt’s one true love is Penny, a young actress who grows very fond of her acting colleague.  The unbreakable but delicate bond between Penny and Bolt lays the groundwork of this film that looks into the importance of loyalty and companionship. 

Some may not see it, but the film actually does a sound job satirizing the greed that plagues the Hollywood system, as well as the over-creativeness of its luminaries.  The downright unrealistic ‘alien concept’ in Bolt’s next episode (shown towards the end of the film) is perhaps a sarcastic attack at Spielberg and Lucas, whose latest Indiana Jones picture has taken a turn for the worse partly because of, well, aliens.

GRADE: B+ (8/10 or 3.5 stars)

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