Bolt (Walt Disney, PG)

film_bolt_sm.jpgI had a feeling this movie would be pretty good, but I honestly did not expect to enjoy everything about it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bolt (John Travolta) is a singular animal. This dog has super speed, super intelligence, and a super bark that can smash concrete. He’ll do anything to keep his owner, Penny (Miley Cyrus), away from the evil Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell). One problem: Bolt’s powers aren’t real—he only plays a superdog on TV—but he doesn’t know that.

Bolt the film is singular, too: it’s a children’s film that adults can enjoy even without kids around. The movie is funny, well acted, filled with interesting nuances, and touching enough to make a grown man cry.

When Bolt escapes from his trailer at the TV studio, he thinks he’s on a mission to save Penny from imminent doom. Who he finds instead are crafty cat Mittens (Susie Essman) and fanboy hamster Rhino (Mark Walton). The three then undertake a cross-country journey to get Bolt back to Penny.

I had a feeling this movie would be pretty good, but I honestly did not expect to enjoy everything about it. Aside from the talking animals, Bolt feels like a live-action film. For instance, the camerawork is, at times, stunning. There is an elaborate chase scene where the camera swoops in and out, up and down, and makes the whole production seem like a John Woo film (minus the slow-motion doves).

Bolt may be action packed and well paced, but it’s also got some serious comedy chops. In one scene, Bolt tries to karate chop a man who he mistakes for Dr. Calico; when the attack fails, he actually stops to study the paw to see what’s wrong. The film is choc-a-bloc with cool moments like this.

One of the best things about Bolt is that the movie never appears to be reaching for anything. A danger-filled chase can turn into a little moment with a big revelation that then becomes a scene of goofy fun. Comedy, drama, intrigue and heartfelt wonder all roll naturally into one another.

Travolta has likely done his best work in years as Bolt. He’s a believably brave, sometimes unsure, and always intelligent pup. Cyrus is delightfully caring as Penny, without a trace of her burgeoning teen angst. Essman is just right as a cat that rules her alley. The genuine find here is Walton as the crazed Rhino. Every line from him carries the pitch-perfect delivery of comedy gold. He may not be famous, but already I cannot wait for Walton’s next voiceover gig. | Adrienne Jones

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