Bolt (Rated PG) Rated: 4 Stars

    True confession time. Every time the trailer for Bolt (96 minutes) appeared, I giggled like a 6-year-old. It’s the cute lil’ hamster in his cute lil’ hamster ball that really makes the movie for me. My husband fell asleep in the middle of this one…while I was clapping my hands (literally) and repeating all the hamster’s lines. I cannot even explain why this movie captured my imagination so thoroughly. Perhaps that lil’ hamster represents the lil’ hamster hiding in my heart. Perhaps the story of a cute-beyond-all-reason orphan puppy dog appeals to the remnants of the childhood idealism I though I’d lost. Or maybe I’m just a big geek who salivates at the thought of anything in 3-D. {mosimage}
    Disney is not breaking new ground here, going with directors, writers and animators from its reliable stable. There is nothing wrong with dependability, but I am ready for the next great evolution in animated flicks…and this ain’t it.
    Penny (Miley Cyrus) and her cute little doggie Bolt (John Travolta) are the stars of the hot show Bolt, which involves a super-powered dog saving his person from mishap after mishap, similar to the CLASSIC Inspector Gadget (whose daughter, coincidentally enough, was also named Penny). Starring in the show opposite Penny and Bolt is Dr. Calico, AKA the green-eyed man (Malcolm McDowell, in a lamentably small role). Much like Truman of The Truman Show, Bolt is completely unaware that he is on television. He hasn’t been off the sound stage in years, and he believes that his sole purpose in life is to use his superpowers to protect his person. 
    One day, Bolt escapes from this trailer and ends up in New York. Once there, he meets a scraggly little kitty cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) and captures her, believing her to be in cahoots with the green-eyed man. As was shown so hilariously in the trailers, Bolt tortures the sweet helpless little kitty for information, and it works out splendidly, just like in real life. Meanwhile, Penny is forced by her agent (Greg German) to continue filming with a duplicate Bolt. Her mother fails to fire or press charges against the borderline emotionally abusive agent, and the show goes on.   
    Bolt gradually realizes something is wrong with his superpowers, but he manages to delude himself for several states. On their cross-country journey the two hook up with RHINO THE AWESOME HAMSTER IN HIS AWESOME BALL (Mark Walton). After several hijinks, the three end up in Hollywood, just in time to save Penny from disaster.      
    This is good for a movie aimed at children, but you probably want to check your brain at the door. The film itself is endlessly derivative, calling to mind much better cartoon plotting and animation, but somehow failing to distinguish itself from other, similar movies. The 3-D is a nice gimmick, but it really does seem like a gimmick, rather than an artistic choice specific to this movie. It’s Disney. You get exactly what you expect, a kid-friendly, formulaic, road movie. Having said that, I certainly enjoyed the movie, since I didn’t attend the theater expecting to see anything revolutionary or envelope pushing.

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