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Bolt (2008)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
DVD Released: 3/24/2009

All Ratings out of

Review by Mike Long, Posted on 3/16/2009

Since the 1930s, Disney has been the king of animated feature films. And they still continue to release traditional hand-drawn features. (The Princess and the Frog is due in theaters later this year.) As if that weren't enough, Disney handles distribution for Pixar, and thus, they are involved with the most successful computer animated films release. Still, that didn't seem to satisfy the "House of Mouse", as in 2005, they introduced their in-house computer animated line with Chicken Little. While that film was OK at best, their next venture, Meet the Robinsons was fun and creative. This gave great promise for their latest feature Bolt.

As Bolt opens, we are introduced to Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) and her super-dog Bolt (voiced by John Travolta). Penny's father has been kidnapped by the Green-Eye Man, and it's up to Penny and Bolt to save the day by evading hordes of evil henchmen. And then the Director (voiced by James Lipton) calls "cut". Bolt is part of a television show which bears his name, but he's not in on the joke. He thinks that everything which happens to he and Penny is real and he's constantly on the lookout for the Green-Eyed Man. When the opportunity arises, Bolt flees from his trailer, thinking that he's on his way to rescue Penny. He winds up in box and is shipped to New York. Still thinking that he's a super-dog, he kidnaps a cat named Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman), believing that she can take him to the Green-Eyed Man. Mittens sees "Hollywood" on Bolt's collar and tells him that's where he needs to go, not knowing that he'd drag her along with him. Soon, Bolt and Mittens are traveling cross-country, where they are soon joined by a fat hamster in a ball named Rhino (voiced by Mark Walton). What will happen when Bolt realizes that he doesn't have super-powers?

Bolt is an interesting movie, as there are actually two movies happening here. The problem is that one is good and one isn't. I may be alone in this, but I really enjoyed the opening sequence which introduced us to the "fake" world of the Bolt TV show. This long action scene is very well-done and the camerawork is great. It played like a tamer version of something from a John Woo or a Mission: Impossible movie. I would love for my kids to experience the ridiculous fun of some adult action films, but I don't want to expose them to the violence and something like this made for a very happy medium. The finale also works well and finally brings some much-needed emotion into the movie.

But, one the film settled into it's "real" story where Bolt is just a normal, albeit confused dog, Bolt became very tedious and boring. In short, it became every road movie that you've ever seen. You know the ones, where the characters have to get from Point A to Point B and they start off in one mode of transportation and then abandoned it and we then later learn that they should have stuck with it in the first place. Don't this part of the film becomes redundant? Bolt jumps/falls from moving vehicles and rolls down a hill on three separate occasions in the span of an hour. I saw all of this in Planes, Trains, and Automobiles and I don't need to see it again.

The movie doesn't get much help from its characters or actors. As a character, Bolt is OK, but Travolta's voice offers no emotion and this flat affect makes it very difficult to care about Bolt. Essman is good as Mittens, but the character brings nothing new to the stereotypical cartoon cat. And as for Rhino, I just found him annoying. Some will be interested in the movie due to the presence of Miley Cyrus as Penny, but she's only a secondary character and anyone could have voiced that role.

Calling Bolt a failure would be an overstatement, but it is a missed opportunity. Every time the movie would show a clip from the Bolt show, I thought, "I want to see more of that." The road movie segment of the movie is simply devoid of emotion and does little to hold our interest. The ending livens things up a bit, but that's assuming that you're still awake. It may just be a cartoon, but bringing Bolt into reality was the film's first mistake.

Bolt zoom-zooms onto DVD courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. This must be a digital-to-digital transfer, as this looks spotless. The colors are good, however the image is a bit dark. The picture doesn't show much depth either. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are very good, most notably during the opening. This scene also brings us impressive surround and subwoofer effects, as the sound is all around us.

The Bolt DVD contains several extras. We get two DELETED SCENES which can be viewed with an introduction by Directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard and run about 7 minutes total. Both scenes show Bolt learning that he's not a super-dog and both are simply semi-animated storyboards. "A New Breed of Director: The Filmmaker's Journey" (5 minutes) is a profile of Williams and Howard, showing how they worked together on the film. We also hear from Pixar guru John Lasseter. This shows us some of the animation process and shows how the Director's have to put their stamp on many things. "Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt" (10 minutes) shows us Travolota, Cyrus, Essman, James Lipton, and Walton in the recording studio. We also get comments from the actors and Directos on the recording process. "Creating the World of Bolt" (7 minutes) examines the look of the film including the fact that the backgrounds have a painted look and how those backgrounds were based on photos. "In Session with John Travolota and Miley Cyrus" (1 minute) shows the two actors recording the song heard over the end credits. We next get the MUSIC VIDEO for that song "I Thought I Lost You". "Super Rhino" (4 minutes) is a new short starring the hamster from the film and plays like a spoof of Bolt.

(Bolt is available as a stand-alone DVD. The Blu-ray Disc also contains a DVD copy in the package.)

Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment has also brought Bolt to Blu-ray Disc. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 30 Mbps. Demo disc! The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no defects whatsoever. The colors look great and the picture displays just the right amount of brightness. The picture is very nicely detailed and every shot is very deep, creating a nice differential between the foreground and background. The Disc contains a DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The sound here is very good, as the stereo effects are constant and show nice stereo separation. For a family film, the subwoofer effects are very impressive and we usually don't get this kind of wall-shaking action from a cartoon. The surround sound effects are good, but not great, as they aren't as detailed as I would have liked.

All of the extras found on the Bolt DVD are present on the Blu-ray Disc. In addition, we get four GALLERIES (Character Design, Color Script, Storyboard Art, and Visual Development) and "Bolt's Be-Awesome Mission", a set-top game.

Review Copyright 2009 by Mike Long