Movie Review: Bolt—”I laughed, I cried, the hamster was hilarious…”

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Naive hero is convinced he has amazing abilities and must defend against evil-doers at every turn. He is ripped from his familiar world and forced to confront the reality that he is just ordinary in a world run by humans, while making friends and discovering himself along the way. All done in spectacular CGI. Oh, and cue Oscar-quality, moody song. Sound familiar?
It should. John Lasseter, the mastermind behind Toy Story is also the
Executive Producer of Bolt, the animated feel-good, buddy film of the season.

Lasseter has assembled a hardcore Disney and PIxar-ish team for
Bolt and it shows. The gags are hilarious, the characters endearing and believable, and the settings and action are rendered with high craft. Director Byron Howard and Chris Williams and screenwriter Dan
Fogelman have all worked in the trenches of some of Disney’s better animated flicks and have put together an entertaining, fun gem of a movie. The title of the post is an actual quote from my 5-year-old, who has not been able to stop quoting the  "I eat danger for breakfast"
line of Rhino the hamster since we first glimpsed the trailer at Igor. More after the jump…

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The movie opens in standard action-movie style as Bolt the superdog and his trusty human Penny try to rescue her scientist father from the clutches of the Green-Eyed Man. In the process, Penny and Bolt are chased by the GEM’s henchmen in high-tech helicopters and motorcycles. We see Bolt in action: super speed, heat vision, and the all-powerful super bark – a scene that would make any action movie 100 times better. It’s a lot to pack into the first five minutes of the movie, until we realize that it is all part of a TV show and Bolt does not realize that the whole thing is a sham. He’s never been off the set and truly believes he’s Bolt the superdog, that is until the show ends in a cliff-hanger ending with Penny kidnapped and Bolt freaking out. His belief drives him to escape to complete his mission to save Penny and as a result, he is off the set for the first time in his life searching for Penny and trying his super powers which have mysteriously vanished.

Here the story unfolds as a standard bildungsroman-style tale where Bolt (John Travolta) meets numerous funny pigeons, takes Mittens the cat prisoner, and enlists the help of Rhino, an equally deluded, TV-infused hamster in a ball – who steals the show and is the happiest surprise from this well traveled plotline.

Their cross-country search/journey is Homeward Bound, Toy Story, and Toy Story 2 smooshed together with a dash of Cars and Easy Rider. The scenery becomes a character in itself and provides a gorgeous backdrop to the evolution of the trio’s cross-country trek. The action-movie fantasy premise is a great framework for the characters and are the source of many of the movie’s gags. Mittens the cat (Susie Essman) trying to figure out whether Bolt is nuts as he tries his heat vision or super strength and Rhino’s geeky enthusiasm are both infectious and full of attitude. Rhino has the best lines of the movie (repeating the word "awesome" about a gajillion times throughout – and it’s funny every time), and there is just something so irresistibly ridiculous about Rhino’s complete belief of himself as action hero. His LOL, matter-of-fact delivery of "I’ll go snap his neck" when they try to sneak past animal control officers is just one example of his delusion. And the long shots of the three roving across the landscape, one being a tiny ball, are just too hilarious for words. The story may be familiar, but as Bolt comes to grips with his "ordinary" status, and learns how to become a plain old dog, it’s believable and sunny.   

The small group in the early show we attended contained all four of us (dad, mom, and kids) and groups of teenagers and college kids. And we were all laughing out loud at the right times. A good time for all.

WIRED: A good CGI buddy flick never gets old; Rhino has a ball (figuratively and literally).
TIRED: A well-worn tale; one can have too much "awesome."

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