My rating of Bolt: A (Outstanding)
Directed by: Chris Williams, Byron Howard
Voice Cast: John Travolta, SnakeMonster, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Greg Germann
Made by: Walt Disney Animation Studios / Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Being holed up inside me home is making me slowly turning even more insane than I already am. I knew that I needed something to cheer myself up because one urge that I felt every morning for the past two weeks when I woke up was to smash scintillating jeweled crabs with heavy iron mallets.
Basically, I needed to watch a ‘family movie’. Trailers and behind-the-scenes promos of Bolt had been doing the rounds of Disney Channel these past few days (Bolt was released in Indian theatres on Friday), so I decided to watch Bolt. I found the pigeons in the trailer quite funny. I could figure that they’d probably be minor characters in the storyline but that’s OK. It’s like…Madagascar [my rating – B (good)], where the stars were the penguins. Or say Happy Feet [my rating – A- (almost perfect)], where the Amigos stole the show despite being on-screen for a relatively short time. I was a tad apprehensive of the fact that SnakeMonster AND John Travolta voiced the main characters of the movie.
Bolt was released in US theatres many moons ago (in November 2008). The Indian release is pretty late by those standards as even the DVD editions are out by now elsewhere. A movie by Walt Disney Animation Studios (WDSA) who did some amazing work way back with traditional animation movies such as Lion King (my favorite in the series was not the original; it was Lion King 1 1/2), but in recent years they’d dropped the ball. Upstarts like Pixar, Sony, DreamWorks kicked Disney’s ass with CGI movies. Walt Disney Animation Studios is getting a reboot now doing CGI movies. Bolt is their first attempt (I think…) after a lukewarm Chicken Little. Disney’s Buena Vista International distributes both Pixar (a Disney subsidiary now) and WDSA movies.
Anyway, moving on with the review. Bolt sticks to a simplistic storyline given that it’s an animation movie. A la The Truman Show, Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is a dog who’s been raised since he was a pup to believe that he’s a dog with superpowers who can fight bad guys. In reality Bolt is part of an action TV show. The studio decided to raise him in the delusion to capture ‘realistic performances’. I won’t give away much of whatever’s left of the story. Suffice to say that Bolt ends up at New York from his Hollywood studio due to some freakish incidents. The rest of the movie is of a cute dog trying to make his way back to while believing that he actually has superpowers. In tow are Mittens (Susie Essman) – a street-smart New York alley cat – and Rhino (Mark Walton) – a hamster in a plastic ball who’s an obsessed fan of Bolt from the TV show and actually believes Bolt’s powers are real too. During the journey we have the usual cliches of self-discovery and character building – all done in a fun way though.
Voice acting is superb. Miley Cyrus SnakeMonster voices the character of Penny, a tomboyish girl who’s the off-screen and on-screen owner of Bolt. She’s an actor on the TV show too who’s cajoled by the studio and her irritating agent (voiced by the very irritating ) into deluding her dog into believing the faux world of the TV show. I thought that this would be casting mistake – SnakeMonster has a grating voice which sounds like a bloody foghorn – but the voice gels in well with her character of a action superhero tomboyish actor-kid. We also get confirmation that John Travolta really is a son a of a bitch. In most of the first act Bolt spends his time barking; so if he was doing all those realistic barks…well, then my conclusion is obvious. And I was right about the pigeons! They get relatively little on-screen time but those moments are goddamn hilarious. I’d put those dialogues right up there on the memorability scale along with Robert de Niro’s “Mwuy swon is a shwark! A cold-blooded killer, ye hear me!” in Shark Tale [my rating – A+ (Oscar-worthy)].
I know the story doesn’t sound that stellar. What makes the movie engaging is that for a change Walt Disney tries to inject humor into its animation movie. A lot of self-deprecating potshots at Hollywood – starting from irritating agents to taking digs at Hollywood action flicks to making fun to (pigeon) screenwriters pitching plot ideas. (Memorable scenes include Bolt crashing head-on with a speeding car, escaping without a scratch himself and resulting in the car getting smashed to pieces after doing a flip in the air; and a ‘super-bark’ which literally blows away a whole armada of tanks, helicopters and assorted bad guys.) Disney and Pixar have formulaically gone for cutesy instead of humor and it’s refreshing to see a change in tactics. The animals are quite endearing and cute too.
Quality of animation is excellent, without exaggeration. Excruciating attention to details such as textures, shadows, reflections has been paid even if it was a fleeting shot. While not rendered or even intended to be photorealistic the movie is many notches above smooth bland textures that most animation studios dish out these days. Watching this movie truly is a visual treat as at first the animation takes your breath away…and then melts into the background as it rightfully should while you get absorbed into that world. This effort is praiseworthy as this movie was made in 18 months rather than a few years that most animation movies generally take.
Now there’s just one thing left to talk about. The end credit animation is naice and accompanying song I Thought I Lost You is not that bad either. But I swear, Disney, that if you ever – ever – release a behind-the-scenes video of Miley Cyrus AND John Travolta singing duet, then I’ll club your marketing executives to death. Man. That video is so fucking nightmare-inducing. John Travolta shouldn’t be allowed to sing, even more not allowed to feature in a music video. It’s not a good promotional tactic to release nightmare-inducing videos to entice Disney Channel viewers to watch your movie. Capiche? Every second of that video I was jittery that Billy Ray Cyrus would barge in with his stupid lopsided jog singing “Mah-lee is my daughter, my daughter’s mah-lee, where’s my daughter mah-lee, there’s my daughter mah-lee, gimme a hug hoog mah-lee […and so on and so forth]“ in that stupid redneck voice of his. Like he does on the Hannah Montana show. (Not that I watch, but I sometimes have to wait while The Suite Life or Wizards of Waverly Place starts.) You have no idea how terrible nightmares the mere possibility of having to endure Billy Ray Cyrus can cause. I swear that if they every use him to publicise this movie then I’ll buy this movie’s DVD and then smash it to smithereens using a country guitar.
Watch Bolt for being the funniest Disney movie so far…with pigeons and an incredibly cute ‘daywg‘*.
* My rating of what-it-links-to – A+ (Oscar-worthy)