Now that my son is home for winter vacation, I thought it would be fun to take him to see the latest Disney CGI film Bolt. I’d read some earlier reviews that indicated this particular movie wasn’t quite up to the usual Disney standards, but figured my son might still enjoy it, especially with a cute dog as the lead character. Turns out I should have heeded the lukewarm reviews and waited to catch this one on DVD.
Plot summary (with possible spoilers): Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is the canine lead of a popular TV show. On the show, Bolt has superpowers and can do things that no ordinary dog can, as he fights nefarious criminals with the help of his human Penny (Miley Cyrus). The key to Bolt’s success as an “actor” is that he absolutely believes that everything he’s doing is real. He believes that Penny is in danger, that his superpowers actually work, and that he’s helping to save the world. To perpetuate the illusion, the producers don’t let Bolt off the set on weekends, so the dog knows nothing of the outside world.
Then one day things change drastically as Bolt inadvertently falls into a crate headed from Hollywood to New York. Once he escapes, his first concern is to find Penny. But of course he has no idea that he’s actually all the way across the country — and doesn’t find out what’s going on until he hooks up with a cat named Mittens (Susie Essman). Bolt, still under the impression that he’s a superhero, demands that Mittens help him locate Penny, which the cat must do after Bolt ties them together with a leash.
After figuring out that Bolt is from Hollywood, Mittens tells him that they have to get a ride back there. They jump into the back of a U-Haul, and thus begin their cross-country adventure. The rest of the film deals with the various obstacles they encounter along the way, a new companion they pick up in the hamster Rhino (Mark Walton), as well as Bolt’s reaction when he learns that he’s just a regular dog after all. And of course, this being a Disney movie, everything works out for the best in the end.
My Reaction: Both my 5-year-old son and I thought Bolt was pretty boring. To be honest, the opening sequence that showed all that action from the TV show was the most exciting part of the entire film, and had us thinking that it would have been a better idea for the screenwriters to have made a movie in that vein instead of the one that we ended up with.
I don’t know if it was the voice actor or what, but Bolt wasn’t the least bit interesting as the main character. There was nothing about him that made him sympathetic, so it was kind of hard to care about his plight. Perhaps if there had been a few more scenes at the beginning to show him bonding with Penny things would have been different. But as it was, I wasn’t in his corner at all — which of course made it hard to sit through all of his adventures.
The supporting characters weren’t much help at all. While both Rhino and Mittens were ok, they didn’t do anything memorable, nor were there any great moments featuring these guys. And it seemed that a couple of storylines were inexplicably dropped — like not pursuing the thread about what happened to Mittens’ family or why Rhino was so quick to leave his human. Usually Disney movies bring these things full circle, but not in this case.
Overall, there’s very little about Bolt that will appeal to either children or adults. After seeing it, I’m not at all surprised that it’s under-performing at the box office. It was disappointing for a Disney film, and I give it just 2 stars out of 5.