dir Byron Howard, Chris Williams
scr Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams
voices John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell, James Lipton, Greg Germann, Diedrich Bader, Dan Fogelman, Kari Wahlgren, Randy Savage, Grey DeLisle
release US 21.Nov.08, UK 13.Feb.09
08/US Disney 1h36

Unlikely friends: Rhino and Bolt

travolta cyrus mcdowell
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Bolt With a frantically enjoyable pace and some subtly sharp gags, this lively animated adventure keeps us entertained even if the story and characters aren't particularly well-developed.

Bolt (voiced by Travolta) is a dog who has been raised on a TV set to believe he is the protector of his master, Penny (Cyrus), battling the evil green-eyed Dr Calico (McDowell). But when he gets lost in New York, he discovers that his superpowers don't work. The full truth takes awhile to dawn on him, but he's determined to be reunited with Penny and heads on a cross-country trip to find her in Hollywood, accompanied by cranky alley cat Mittens (Essman) and feisty hamster Rhino (Walton).

The story is eerily similar to the live-action 2007 action-comedy FIREHOUSE DOG, although having the critters speak (only to each other) lets the filmmakers stir some much sillier humour into the mix, especially when Rhino appears. Technically, the 3D animation is spectacular, rivalling some big-budget blockbusters in the effects department and rendering the central characters with remarkable texture.

That said, the design is somewhat awkward--Bolt's head is too big, Mittens is oddly wire-thin, the humans are fat and plasticky--but they make up for it through sheer personality. And the film's nonstop pace keeps us fairly breathless through each spectacular action set piece, no matter how absurd they get. And the goofy comedy shtick has several inspired insider gags, such as Penny's manipulative agent (Germann) or some hilarious Hollywood pigeons. There's a gleeful sense of anarchy from start to finish that keeps us smiling when we're not laughing.

So it's a shame that the writers don't make more of the characters or premise than they do. But most gags are utterly random, and add to the fun even though they don't have anything to do with the story. And the plot itself is extremely thin, which is a bit odd since they actually make fun of vacuous TV storylines early on. All of this makes it a little difficult to really get taken away by the adventure of it all. Although it's doubtful than any child in the audience will complain.

cert pg themes, violence 30.Nov.08

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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall