Disney Animated Marathon: Bolt (2008)

Movie #49 in the Disney Animated Marathon is a whole lot of fun, like a lot of fun, mang!

Screenplay By: Dan Fogelman, Byron Howard, Jared Stern & Chris Williams
Directed By: Byron Howard & Chris Williams

I almost went the whole enchilada with Bolt, I was oh so very close to doing that. But, Bolt is a great film, not a GREAT film, ya know? The key to Bolt’s success can be measured by how invested one is willing to become in its adventure. I know that some people found Bolt to be a pedestrian tale, but I had a lot of fun with it. I found myself laughing a lot, cheering Bolt on, falling in love with a hamster, and wanting a little girl to be happy. Bolt brought out all of these wants, needs and feeling rather easily, much easier than I would have thought possible from this film.

First and foremost, Bolt is a film very much in line with my sensibilities. What I mean by that is that Bolt is a film that tells the same types of jokes I would, speaks the way I would and approaches life in the same manner that I usually do. A perfect case in point is a scene where Bolt is flustered and his word of choice to express his bewilderment is discombobulated. That is a word I use all the time, and in the same tone and manner that Bolt uses it in. Moments like that really help me to connect to Bolt in a deeper way than I ever thought I would with this film. I suspect in fact that the resonance I found between Bolt’s manner of being and my own manner of being might explain a good deal of why I love Bolt so much while others merely like it or tolerate it.

All that being said, the main reason that I think people should connect with Bolt is its ability to be a fun adventure film. I say this with nary a shred of sarcasm, but I would take Bolt over many classic and revered adventure stories, like for instance Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Settle down nerds, and settle down about being called nerds because I am a nerd as well, I’m not attacking your precious Indiana Jones. But, using that classic adventure tale as a measuring stick for Bolt was as good of a way as any to express how well I believe the adventure elements of Bolt are constructed and executed. So as soon as you settle down from your vitriol induced haze, come back to me and we can move on to other matters concerning Bolt.

Okay, you good, have you settled down from hating me and gotten over my slight of Raiders Of The Lost Ark? If you haven’t then too bad, and if you have then let’s move on with the animation found in Bolt. Sometimes animation can be too clean for its own good, it can be so clean that it looks fake. Bolt rides the line with its clean animation, it is very, very clean and detailed, but it never crosses that line into too clean territory. This allows the film to look very detailed and sophisticated without losing the warmth and liveliness that animation can naturally contain. I will not lie to you loyal readers, the few of you who are left, I think Bolt is an amazingly crisp looking film, one of the best looking from the mouse in a long while.

Last, but not least, comes the voice acting. Susie Essman is essentially playing her character of Susie Greene from Curb Your Enthusiasm, without the swearing. There’s nothing wrong with that however, because her belligerent and angry humor works well to contrast the superhero nature of Bolt. Mark Walton is a scene stealer as Rhino, I literally cracked up with every scene he took over. Miley Cyrus is surprisingly good as Penny, showing a depth of voice acting that I didn’t know she was capable of possessing. If anyone doubts what I am saying about her then just go and check out her work in Hannah Montana where she speaks with her normal and scarily manly voice. The true strength of Bolt however is the voice work of John Travolta. The man’s live action career may be spiraling out of control, but his voice work in Bolt is some of the finest voice work done in recent times. To keep it simple, Travolta gets the superhero archetype, he understands the selfless nature and heroism found in the most stalwart of heroes and he runs with that. But, underneath it all he forms little cracks in Bolt’s armor, so that when he does begin to doubt, you can hear the sense of failure and devastation in his voice. Yes, Travolta is that damn good in Bolt.

Man, I wrote a lot about Bolt, a movie that most people find to be sort of bland. But, obviously I don’t agree and I felt the need to explain why I think quite differently from the majority of people I know when it comes to Bolt. Bolt is a tense, crisp looking, fun adventure film. It has a sensibility and way of going about its business that I can get behind, and features an amazing vocal performance from Travolta. It’s only one film in, but already I can sense the mouse taking a turn for the better as it begins its next era of animation. Bolt is a worthy addition to the Disney canon, and I’m proud to be able to say that again.

Rating:

***1/2

Cheers,
Bill

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7 responses to “Disney Animated Marathon: Bolt (2008)

  1. Melissa/oneaprilday

    Glad you enjoyed it! I really liked it, too – I was surprised by just how much!

  2. I agree with you on this as well. I saw it on TV and was surprised at how good it was. It was also where both Travolta and Cyrus weren’t annoying. They actually became those characters. I liked the animation and story. It was actually a better film than I thought it would be.

  3. I went in expecting nothing special but was pleasantly surprised. It’s one of the funniest films Disney has ever made.

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  6. Melissa – It is a lovely film, surprisingly so.

    Steven – This is probably the first time I’ve liked Travolta since the late 90s.

    Edgar – It’s definitely funny in a very off beat fashion.

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