"For every laugh, there should be a tear" – these were the words of Walt Disney. And while there may not be a tear for every laugh (there's a lot of laughs) in "Bolt," Disney's latest animated work of art definitely hits the nail on the head.
More than funny flick (which it is) and an action-packed CGI masterpiece (which it is), "Bolt" is a movie that reaches into the very heart of its audience. And it's this ability to do so that will stick moviegoers to their seats and have them coming back for more. The script is superb.
We've all seen the trailers. Superdog Bolt is a genetically altered mutt with special powers, including incredible strength, laser vision, and a "super bark" that can lay waste an entire army. Or at least that's what he thinks he is and how his TV show portrays him. Unknown to him, Bolt is just a regular dog (a cross between a white German shepherd and a number of other dogs, according to Disney) who has been raised all his life on a TV set, made to think everything happening to him is real (much like Jim Carrey's "The Truman Show").
"If the dog believes it's real, the audience believes it," the director of Bolt's TV show says, pointing out the "depth of emotion never captured before" in Bolt's performance.
Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) believes with every bone in his body that he has to save his "person," Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus), and defend her from the evil schemes of the cat-loving "green-eyed man," Dr. Calico (voiced by Malcolm McDowell). So when Penny is "captured" in one cliffhanger episode, Bolt manages to break free from his Hollywood confines to attempt to rescue her – only to find himself boxed up and shipped off by mistake to the other side of the U.S. – New York City.
Believing that Penny is in grave danger, Bolt sets off to save her, recruiting (or rather capturing) a scrappy alley cat to lead him to his "person" and later an overzealous hamster, who watches Bolt every week on the "magic box" and is absolutely bursting with excitement over the idea of teaming up with his beloved hero.
Along the way, Bolt has to come to grips with the fact that it's not the Styrofoam packaging peanuts that took away his superpowers, but – as alley cat Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman) tries to tell him – that all he's ever known was not real. But more than a journey into reality, their journey is one of friendship, of loyalty, and love that goes deeper than what Hollywood can produce.
"The heart in 'Bolt' comes from the emotional journey and the change that happens along the way," says former Pixar guru John Lesseter about his first animated feature as the Disney animation head. "On top of that, you have to make a film very appealing with the highest quality animation and backgrounds."
And yes. Not mentioning the stunning graphics of "Bolt" would be an injustice to the film. It is the beautifully engineered animation that really brings the movie to life, oftentimes looking so real that moviegoers may wonder if some of the scenes are really computer generated or if they were filmed onsite. Furthermore, as Disney's first 3-D animated film, "Bolt" brings the magic of Disney into a whole new world. So captivating is the movie that it pulls not only children into the world of Bolt, but anyone who has ever been a child – i.e., people of all ages.
With all that said, "Bolt" is certainly a movie you'll want to watch with family and friends. If you're bringing young children who may not be able to sit long with 3-D glasses on, 2-D may be the way to go. But otherwise, one of the 900+ theaters showing "Bolt" in 3-D will be your best bet. The movie will dazzle your senses, tickle your funny bone, and touch your heart.