Sadly, right now I don't have a Hamster... or a cat for that matter. This is okay, because my dog is about seventy times seven kinds of hilarious. Oh, I'm sorry, did you not know that I adopted a Greyhound... who won 13 races... and came in second in 11 more... before retiring... earlier this... year? Did I not mention... that? Hmmm?
Yeah, Bolt, the Disney Animated Feature that's as CGI as any Pixar Flick can get. Bolt, the tale of Super Action, Adventure and Friendship, just like so many Pixar Flicks. Bolt was executive produced by Pixar's John Lasseter, director of Toy Story and Cars! But Bolt is not a Pixar Flick! The fact that it has been mistaken for a Pixar flick certainly bodes well for this kids' movie. In truth, the animation is really quite good as are the character designs. This, being an action comedy, also looks fantastic on the big screen with lots to see on ever inch of each projected frame. The fact that this film was also released in theatres as a Disney Digital 3-D picture means that the animation needed not only to be good, but also be eye popping as it races off the screen at you. And it does.
Bolt is the story of an animal actor named Bolt (John Travolta), who stars in a television program of the same name that follows the adventures of a super-powered canine of the (also same name) who is to super-villains what cyclones are to RV parks! Almost invariably, his thrills, chills and derring-do are all means to the end of rescuing his capable, but frequently endangered owner Penny (Miley Cyrus). It's a cool and popular show, but it is JUST a show! The problem is that Bolt is the only one who doesn't know that. The Pup truly believes he is a superhero and that appears to be half of what makes the show so popular. Local cats (like a certain Veteran voiced by Diedrich Bader) love nothing better than tormenting Bolt when no humans are around, pretending to be lackeys of the show's main antagonist Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell).
Penny has her concerns about keeping poor Bolt in the dark, while others like the show's Director (James Lipton), Penny's Agent (Greg Germann) and even Penny's often reluctant Mom (Grey Delisle) believe that the deception is good for the ratings. The formula seems to work until Bolt breaks out of his "Star Wagon" and races to go rescue Penny, prompted by the repeated sounds of her pleas for help... during post-production sound editing. A series of unfortunate events causes the powerless Bolt to be packaged and shipped to New York. His only explanation is that the packaging peanuts must be like Kryptonite to him.
After running a-fowl (I'm sorry) of some Goodfeathers-like New York Pigeons, Bolt nabs Mittens (Susie Essman), a sarcastic alley-cat whom Bolt is sure also works for Dr. Calico. Mittens, on the other hand, is certain that Bolt is clearly clinically cuckoo and humors him only out of self preservation. As cynical as Mittens is, the duo is about to meet her polar opposite in the form of an excitable hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton) who knows exactly who Bolt is and willingly accompanies his hero after having watched every single episode of Bolt from the relative safety of his little plastic ball.
Meanwhile Penny and company are wondering what to do with Bolt missing and whether or not the show can go on without him. Penny and her mom say no, the director and agent say yes.
Bolt starts out as action packed as films like this come with an army of villains, a number of explosions and some very cool demonstrations of the "Dog Wonder's" super powers. After this, the film easily shifts into a kid-friendly comedy (albeit with intense enough scenes to warrant its PG Rating). At core, Bolt is a road picture and a buddy-comedy that focuses on its deluded main character slowly coming to realize the truth, while still determined to get back to Penny. However, as Bolt begins to understand his own reality, the reality of Mittens and Rhino are both revealed and the audience begins to better understand what makes Mittens so negative and Rhino so positive. One big question here is whether or not Mittens is right and if Bolt can indeed be easily replaced.
Credit for the story and its flashes of depth should be given to its writers, Chris Saunders, Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams (who, with Byron Howard, also directed). There are some good laughs here and a large number of touching moments (that aren't even ruined by the musical interludes). While this is no Citizen Kane, the film is well-written enough that the audience really feels that the characters care about each other. Questions like the true nature of heroism, family versus career and attachment versus self-reliance are explored capably, but with a definite friendliness to its target audience of kids. It all leads to a final act that is both touching and action packed and a dénouement that leaves the audience feeling pretty darned good... and without any kind of deus ex machina to boot!
If Bolt has a main flaw, it might just be over-ambition. Like its main character's delusion about being a superhero, the film occasionally seems to forget that it's not an epic. Sure, Pixar takes the relatively mundane and makes epic movies from it, but Bolt seems to work backward from epic into the Pixar-esque comedy and heart. Further, while this action comedy can be very exciting at times, there are a few moments during which it slows down and makes the film feel just a bit longer than it is. These elements are rough areas in an overall jewel, however, as Bolt is surprisingly fun to watch and primarily unpretentious.
Many releases of Bolt were paired with a new Pixar Short called Tokyo Mater, a "Cars Toon" that features "Tow Mater" in a semi-spoof of The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, also presented in Disney Digital 3-D. Bolt may not also be Pixar, but this Disney Animated Feature is actually pretty darned good and worth Four Stars out of Five! It's got the action, the heart and the adventure and it's got more than its fair share of the comedy... especially when it comes to Rhino the Hamster! "Hamster!" Let's hope this starts a new trend of Hamster-oriented comedy. Think about it... you've got your Monster Movies, why not your Hamster Movies? Gangster Movies? Why not replace the Gangsters with Hamsters, man? How much cuter would that lethal Montage from The Godfather be with Hamsters instead of Gangsters? A lot! A lot cuter! Just throw the word Hamster in everywhere... it makes things significantly funnier. How about a Jimmy Hoffa bio-pic in which he's the president of the "International Brotherhood of Hamsters"! Next time you bring your Youngster to be Baptized by a Minister... think again and bring your Hamster to be baptized by a Hamster! You could even do it at Westhamster Cathedral and you might consider driving there in a "1950 Jaguar XK120 Hamster" with the top down! Okay, I'm running out of time, so I'll see you in the next reel. Until then, think of your own Hamster-oriented comedy! I'll be sliding down the banister like I did when I was a youngster as fast as a Winchester so that I can check Friendster for messages from my sister. You get my meaning, right, Mister?
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