Bolt had a rough, uneven production — and it shows. It was the first Disney animated film to have significant production overlap between Disney’s pre- and post-Pixar merger leadership. As a result, Bolt tries on a lot of identities. Too many, in fact, to ultimately come together as a satisfying film. But a lot of portions are really quite good, so it’s far from a waste of time.
The film’s story is driven from the premise: What if a dog thought he was actually a superhero, but really wasn’t? It’s a phenomenally stupid idea for a plot and ends up being a mishmash of a bunch of ideas done better elsewhere:
- Toy Story 1: protagonist believes he’s a fantastical hero, but is in fact quite mundane, and must reckon with that truth
- Toy Story 2: side character has trouble coping with being left behind by a kid in the past
- The Truman Show: protagonist’s life is built around a TV show without him realizing it
- The Incredibles: ordinary person/creature has superpowers, resulting in a comic blending of the mundane and the extraordinary
It’s, ultimately, a story that requires too much suspension of disbelief relative to the payoff, dragging down the movie. Its best moments (and most Pixar-esque) are after Bolt has realizes he’s not a true super-dog and misses his owner.
The animation is overall very good, with a few notable hiccups. The lighting and settings are amazing, as are the character animation of the animals. The humans, on the other hand, are a nightmare. It’s hard to believe this was only 2 years before Tangled, a vast improvement in human CGI.
The voice acting is fine. Travolta and Cyrus feel lest stunt-cast than I would have feared. Susie Essman is excellent as the cat Mittens, capturing numerous shades to the character.
Lastly, that set piece at the pound is hysterical.
Nearly Good (4/8)
Note: This review was originally published elsewhere. Please excuse brevity or inconsistencies in style. If you have questions or feedback, please leave a comment or contact me.