Bolt is Disney’s second attempt at making a computer generated movie WITHOUT the involvement of Pixar (albeit, John Lasseter is still executive producer.). Their last attempt was Chicken Little, and quite frankly, that movie was weak in almost all categories, and didn’t even come close to the quality of Pixar films.
So, does Bolt right the wrongs of Disney’s last attempt at computer generation? The answer is, yes. However, Bolt still does not have quite the touch that Pixar puts on its movies, and it falls just short of meeting the Pixar level of quality.
Basically, the premise of Bolt is rather simple. We follow the adventures of a talking dog named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) who is the star of a popular TV show with his owner, Penny. (Miley Cyrus.) Bolt, however, is clueless to the fact he has no real powers, and has not been raised at all to act like a real dog. He faces his first real challenge when he is accidentally shipped off to New York City where he meets a cat named Mittens (Susie Essman), who reluctantly agrees to help him get back to California. From there, the initial negativity that clouds both of their interactions between them eventually turns into a close friendship that bonds them throughout the movie.
The story is mostly well written, with several genuinely funny lines, and interactions between characters. Bolt’s naivety to how dogs are supposed to act is obviously played for laughs, and so is his thinking that he has real super powers. While most of the humor is well written, some of it gets a little old like the TV show’s director’s uncaring for Bolt’s safety attitude when talking to Penny and her mother. But overall, the humor is something both adults and kids will find charming. The story itself is heartwarming enough, but the pace of the movie is very uneven, and the dramatic climax feels rather rushed. Both emotional low points for Bolt in the movie are played rather awkwardly, and neither are given enough time to settle in. The fact that this exists in the movie downgrades the story to a mixed bag, and is what really makes the movie less than par to Pixar’s cinema efforts.
The voice acting is done extremely well with John Travolta surprisingly playing a dog with little to no knowledge about the real word very well, and realistically. Susie Essman, meanwhile, also plays an excellent character to play off of Bolt, and her sarcastic line delivery is something anyone can appreciate. Even Miley Cyrus, who I have a rather low opinion of, makes Penny’s character believable, and plays her emotional lows when Bolt is missing very well indeed. The hamster character voiced by Mark Walton that appears later in the film is also quite enjoyable, and is luckily, not as annoying as some other sidekick characters I’ve seen in fiction.
Like the story, the computer generation quality itself is a mixed bag. The animation itself is done very well, and characters are animated smoothly, and crisply. The same cannot be said for the 3D modeling department, however. While the animal characters are attractive enough, the human characters are appalling, and a pain to look at. There is a fine line between cartoony looking humans, and ugly cartoony looking humans. Bolt sadly falls into the latter category. Again, this continues to downgrade the movie below Pixar in terms of computer generation itself. However, the 3D work does look a lot better than Chicken Little, especially for its time. That is a plus.
Overall, Bolt is an enjoyable romp, and casual Disney viewers should definitely give it a whirl in the DVD player. People who are looking for a Pixar quality product here, however, won’t get what they ask for, but will still get a decently entertaining film at least.