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Starring: (the voices of) John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Malcolm McDowell

Director: Byron Howard, Chris Williams

Writers: Dan Fogelman, Chris Williams

Cinematography: Paul A. Felix

Original Score: John Powell

Running Time: 103 Mins. 

Bolt is a first for a number of reasons, it’s the first picture to come out of Disney Animation Studios since John Lasseter was appointed Chief Creative officer and in charge of over-seeing all of Disney’s animate output, CGI and non-CGI alike. The first non-CGI affort will be this Christmasses The Princess and the Frog but until then we have the first CGI effort in Bolt, or more specifically Bolt 3D. For you see this is the second ‘first’ the first animated film made specifically to be seen in 3D. In fact it is the first of what seems to be the release of every animated film being released in 3D this year, Ice Age 3, Monsters vs. Aliens, Coraline and Pixars own Up, the list goes on.

So, in this sudden influx of 3D have the film-makers achieved more than just tacking on a gimmick, whereby things are poked out of the screen at you throughout a below par film (yes i’m looking at you My Bloody Valentine!). Does Bolt achieve this? Well, yes… and no. For Bolt is by far Disney’s best output in years, that is obvious, it has the heart, the story with a moral and some very likeable heroes all down to pat, what it is lacking by comparison to Lasseter’s own studio is the cross generation appeal achieved seemingly through little effort, Wall-E this is not, and neither is it Toy Story.

But boy does it try to be, Bolt IS the Buzz Lightyear of the dog world, brought up from a puppy as the star of a reality tv style action show, Bolt lives to defend his ‘person’ Penny, escaping the set one day and under the apprehension that he still has his super-bark and laser beam eyes, and what do you know…he learns how to become a dog again and that he really isn’t a superhero. This opening is a technological marvel, demonstrating the 3D to great effect, we are immersed into Bolt’s action packed world as he battles Malcolm McDowell’s (in a thankless voice role) Green Eyed Man. Hands poke out the screen with bolts of electricity at you, we race along the road as Bolt runs down the villains, yes its gripping and fantastical stuff, but it’s lacking a spark found in the greatest Disney toons until…

…Enter stage right, Mittens and Rhino, a cat and hamster respectively, when these two team with Bolt the film really comes to life, funny, ingenious and full of heart, whoever thought a hamster in a ball would make a good character deserves a medal. From this point on the film rattles along and the usual lessons are learnt but they arent too mawkish and any tender moments are undercut by Rhino’s hilarious one liners, comedy performance of the year? It could well be.

On the other hand are John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, Travolta does ghis best with the ‘straight’ role but he never seems the right fit in the way that say Zach Braff did with Chicken Little, Cyrus though is simply unrecognisible to the point where the only reason she was xcast is for the use of her name on the poster, going to show that again unlike Pixar, Disney aren’t afraid to lower themselves to pumping a film with big names to put bums in seats over anything else. These though are minor quibbles in a film that is surely set to put Disney back where it deserves to be, atop (or just under Pixar) of the animation tree!

VERDICT

Bolt is a triumph of sorts for Disney, very funny with some fantastically realised characters, especially in Rhino the hamster, a great film in its own right simply bolstered by the 3D hook, which is finally used to suck you into a more immersive cinematic experience.

grade-c

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