Written by: Dan Fogelman & Chris Williams
Directed by: Byron Howard & Chris Williams
Starring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell
My Advice: Don’t miss it. Kids or no.
Bolt (voiced by Travolta) is Rin Tin Tin and Lassie meets a cybernetic Swiss army knife. He’s The Six Million Dollar Pooch. Found in a pet rescue place by his person, Penny (voiced by Cyrus), he was altered by Penny’s father (voiced by Ronn Moss) to be the ultimate in canine protection. He’s indestructible. He’s super fast. He has a Super BarkTM. And he also has no idea that any of this is a television program, staged so that he is the most convincing animal actor in history. Trouble is, because he’s not in on the joke, he thinks that by breaking out of the studio and making a break for it, he’s trying to save Penny. Now he has to find his way home–and the only difference between this and Homeward Bound is Bolt is a bit…unprepared for the outside world.
First, we saw the film in Digital 3-D. Which is the first time I’ve experienced that. And it’s incredible. My problem with 3-D is that it’s never a crisp effect. With old 3-D or even newer 3-D (i.e., no red and blue), I can’t ever seem to get placed so that it’s not fuzzy in places. As a result, I can’t ever quite get completely into the film because the fuzziness is nagging at me. This is probably due to the fact that, sans contacts, my life is fuzzy anyway so I try to shy away from that. Anyway, the Digital 3-D they had for this was brilliant. And it wasn’t just Dr. Tongue-esque things being pitched in your face, it was everything from the Walt Disney logo in front of the castle to just the depth of everything. Clear as a bell. I urge everybody to see as much as possible in Digital 3-D. Because it rocks balls.
Second, the story is a nice blend of The Truman Show and any number of delusional hero movies, coupled with cute animals–so it’s derivative enough and funny enough to be welcome. And third, the vocal cast is impressive. Travolta is quite the hero, Miley Cyrus makes the most of a character who’s basically at home and is avoiding most of the action–but it’s the supporting cast that’s really choice. Malcolm McDowell as the TV show bad guy? James Lipton as the director of the show? Brilliant. Hell, they even got Randy Savage for a bit part. But it’s Mark Walton that’s the standout. He is the voice of my new hero, the slightly mental hamster called Rhino. Rhino is everything you wanted from the trailers and more. They didn’t even touch upon his best lines, like when he begins running down the terrible things he’s going to do to a full grown human. And it’s little throwaway bits like when Bolt is running to the rescue, Rhino is rolling behind him, calling out “I’m on your six!” He is my guardo camino. And Walton is brilliant–and he’s not an actor by trade…he’s one of the animators. This means, of course, that we have a worthy successor to the late, great Joe “Heimlich” Ranft.
As an aside, Disney, I really want a new Rhino short on the DVD release of this. And I would buy the hell out of a t-shirt with Rhino on the back of it with the words “I’M ON YOUR SIX” beneath him. It wouldn’t even need to be black–any other color I’d probably just buy it out of respect.
And let me say this about the story as well–trying not to give to much away in the process. Lots of films want to take an extraordinary character and teach him that it’s better to be ordinary. And speaking as somebody who wants to grow up to be extraordinary–this annoys the shit out of me. This is not a lesson for kids, sorry. If we want to make them believe it’s better to be ordinary, we’ll put them through the public school system. But no, this movie dodges that particular bullet by showing that the ordinary can be extraordinary–that it’s not necessarily settling for less. That is a great lesson.
I figured I would enjoy the film, frankly, going into it. What was unexpected is how much I enjoyed it. I’m still grinning about Rhino’s best lines here almost twelve hours later. And I would watch the hell out of an animated series based around Bolt’s fictional adventures in the show–if every episode were like what they showed in the film, you would too. Does it reinvent animation as we know it? No. But considering the giant crater non-Pixar Disney animation has needed to haul itself out of, it’s a welcome return to form for the main studio. This is what we want, Disney. Now you got me excited about your stuff again. Well done.