Bolt

Bolt movie poster
MPAA rating: PG
Genre: Animated
Bolt (John Travolta) is a German Shepherd and star of his own TV show who accidentally winds up in New York City, unaware that his Hollywood superpowers don't translate to the real world.
Starring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell, Diedrich Bader, Greg Germann, James Lipton
Director: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
Running time: 1:36
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Editorial Review

As sprightly and determined as its fuzzy, yappy lead, the new Disney animated film "Bolt" works hard to be all things to all people, with mixed results. The story of Bolt, a TV-star pooch (voiced by John Travolta) who's accidentally mailed from Los Angeles to New York, the movie follows our hero (plus a cat and a daft hamster) across America in search of his owner and co-star, Penny (Miley Cyrus). But because Bolt, sheltered by his producers from the outside world, believes he truly is the superdog he plays on the tube, the film's simple dog-meets-girl, girl-loses-dog, dog-seeks-girl story jockeys for attention with some fairly sophisticated Hollywood satire, complete with a smooth-talking agent and splashy action scenes.

The result is a family film with an identity crisis: "The Incredible Journey" meets "Entourage" meets "The Truman Show." At Disney's corporate sibling Pixar, this kind of tonal blend comes about organically; think of the seamless mix of childlike wonder and corporate corruption in "Monsters, Inc." But Bolt awkwardly toggles from TV-biz insider jokes to sentimental road trip, with the two stories colliding haphazardly at the movie's conclusion.

That's not to say that everything "Bolt" borrows from Pixar doesn't work. As in a Pixar movie, the supporting characters (voiced not by big Hollywood stars but by working actors and moonlighting animators) steal the show. Bolt's partners in his long-distance journey are an alleycat named Mittens, voiced with sardonic charm by the comedian Susie Essman, and Rhino, a hyperventilating hamster played by longtime Disney development artist Mark Walton.

And, like the best Pixar movies, "Bolt" is often awe-inspiringly beautiful. Shown in 3-D in some theaters, it makes exceptional use of the technique, not just for kinetic action but for lovely tableaux of the American countryside through which Bolt and his friends travel.

-- Dan Kois (Nov. 21, 2008)

Contains mild action and peril.