‘Bolt’ hits light-speed for family laughs | VailDaily.com

‘Bolt’ hits light-speed for family laughs

Shauna Farnell
Eagle County CO, Colorado
Special to the Daily

How lucky for John Travolta that he can still find ways to be adorable and heroic. Wait … has he ever been adorable or heroic? At any rate, he makes an outstanding cartoon canine. But it’s not Travolta or his voice that really shine in “Bolt,” but the spot-on characterization, script and jet-paced plot. Much in the vein of “Toy Story” and “The Incredibles,” “Bolt” serves up a platter of non-stop giggles and slapstick silliness to young viewers and enough wit to stir at least a few chuckles of appreciation from even the most cartoon-hating adult audiences.

Nobody will be so pleasantly surprised with “Bolt” as we children’s animation junkies. The directorial debut of animation artist Byron Howard in conjunction with writers Chris Williams and Dan Fogelman, “Bolt” is nothing short of enjoyable.

Though perhaps not as intelligent as “The Incredibles” or “Toy Story,” “Bolt” is still more than just fun sequences of high-speed scooter chases and fire rescues.

Bolt (Travolta) the dog begins his life in an animal shelter, selected by a young girl for his irresistible, toy-squeaking playfulness and puppy licks.

Time fast-forwards five years and we suddenly discover that this white pooch has moved far above and beyond the skills and ways of typical canines.

He is now a superhero with a super bark, capable of leveling entire fields of bad guys like a hurricane, stopping speeding cars and running at light speed. With owner Penny (voice of Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah Montana), Bolt is forever on the lookout for danger, the evil Green-Eyed Man (Malcom McDowell) and his kitty cronies.

Unbeknownst to Bolt, this superhero, living-on-the-edge existence is all just an act (a la “The Truman Show”). Yes, he doesn’t realize that the lightning bolt emblem seared onto his side is just costume paint and that his powers are all executed by special effects.

Penny dislikes perpetuating this illusion to her beloved pet, but as her fast-talking, pseudo life-like agent tells her, if Bolt truly believes he’s a superdog, so will television audiences everywhere.

As the crew is wrapping up an episode of Bolt the TV Show, Mindy from the Network pays a visit to inform them all that the show has become too predictable and needs something fresh and interesting. She’s tired of seeing Bolt rescue Penny and save the day every single time. The squabbling among Mindy and the cast/crew about how people will lose their jobs if something doesn’t change is clever, realistic and clearly thrown in for the purpose of procuring adult empathy.

During the ensuing TV episode, Penny is captured, Bolt is caged and breaks free to find himself lost in the real world, not knowing why his super powers are gone and desperate to find the Green-Eyed Man and rescue Penny.

The characters Bolt meets along his journey back to Hollywood are really what provide the rich color of this film. There’s Mittens the stray cat (Susie Essman), Rhino the hyperactive hamster (Mark Walton) and a pack of cock-eyed pigeons with tough Jersey accents.

Friendships are forged, hard truths are digested and in the end, every dog-owner in the theater will want to go home and give their own Fido some extra love.

E-mail comments about this review to cschnell@vaildaily.com.

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