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Bolt (Three-Disc Edition w/ Standard DVD + Digital Copy) [Blu-ray] - Blu-ray DVD / romantic comedy DVD / drama DVD review
BOLT (THREE-DISC EDITION W/ STANDARD DVD + DIGITAL COPY) [Blu-ray] Rated PG by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 3 1/2 stars
Featuring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell
Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams Distributor: Walt Disney Video
DVD release: 22 March 2009 Runtime: 97 min.
(3 discs)
Format: Animated, Color, Blu-ray
Blu-ray disc features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 1.78:1, Audio tracks (English - DTS-HD Lossless Master Audio 5.1 Surround; Spanish - Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround), Subtitles (English SDH, Spanish), D-Box, Bonus short Super Rhino, "I Thought I Lost You" music video, In Session with John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmakers' Journey, Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt, Creating The World of Bolt, Deleted Scenes (optional intros by dirs. Chris Williams and Byron Howard), standard DVD, DisneyFile digital copy, Bolt's Be-Awesome Mission, Bolt Art Gallery, BD-Live

Walt Disney's Bolt, helmed by first-time directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard, mashes up disparate screen conventions - pyrotechnics-heavy action flicks and thoroughly evil nemeses a la any classic James Bond film - with some fairly singular screenplay notions (The Six-Million Dollar Man and The Truman Show) and throws it all into the CGI-animation blender with mixed results.

Bolt's human, Penny, picks him out of a pet-shop litter when he's still just a puppy determined to vanquish his squeaky toy. As Bolt grows up and Penny gets older, the two star in an action-adventure TV series, with Penny as the daughter of a scientist who has been kidnapped by the villainous Doctor Calico. Bolt is her staunch, fearless defender and partner. Augmented with extra speed and a super-powerful bark by Penny's father, Bolt will do anything to protect the girl, and she loves him deeply - only Bolt doesn't realize that everything he knows is essentially an elaborate stage.

A pair of prankster cats playing parts in Doctor Calico's feline coterie, along with a network-driven cliffhanger episode ending, lead Bolt to believe that Calico has captured Penny. Without a moment's hesitation, unswerving in his loyalty, he leaps into action - but in striking off on his own, he inadvertently leaves his tightly controlled world for the real one. Convinced that an alley cat he encounters can lead him to Calico and to Penny, he drags her along on his quest. They are joined by Rhino the hamster, a big fan of Bolt's show who's ready to roll his ball wherever Bolt needs him.

The narrative arc plays out fairly as expected; a climax involving a near-fatal on-set fire and its aftermath may be too intense for some younger children, although everything resolves happily enough. Miley Cyrus does a bang-up job voicing the younger Penny, probably the most sympathetic of the top-tier characters. The emotional connection between her and Bolt feels somewhat forced, as does John Travolta's performance as the titular pooch.

But there are tremendous sections here. The personalities of (and behind) some of the secondary characters ring a delightfully quirky, often over-the-top tone. James Lipton plays a pompous, self-satisfied director who insists that the show being Bolt's only reality elicits the most deeply honest onscreen dog performance ever. A few street-wise pigeons sound like they walked straight out of The Sopranos.

The other dominating blow-you-away (it's meant to) aspect is the sequence immediately following the opening scene. Penny and Bolt are on the run from Calico's well-equipped army of thugs to the accompaniment of driving bass-heavy music. Just about every action movie trope is pulled out for the chase and triumphant defeat of the pursuers: the freeway car chase (though Penny's on a scooter and Bolt's afoot); explosive devices a-go-go; helicopters, motorcycles, masked minions in streamlined ninja gear - you name it. The genius here is the perfect but absolutely self-conscious replication of that genre's big set-pieces, with long leaps in slo-mo and total silence, explosions repeated from every conceivable angle, debris and vehicles hurtling toward the viewer. It's a blast to watch, especially on your hi-def big screen with the surround sound cranked.

Bottom line? My kids love it, especially my five-year-old (a budding action hero herself). She's gorged repeatedly on the Blu-ray features, gravitating most often to the Rhino animated short and Bolt's Be-awesome Adventure (once we figured out how to play it with our non-standard PS3 remote, she was hooked - but jeez, only three levels?). I've got the super-catchy Travolta/Cyrus duet "I Thought I Lost You" stuck in my head, and I've memorized (not intentionally) the directors' story and the bit about how animator/storyboard artist Mark Walton came to play the irrepressible Rhino. Good thing the film is better than average and the accompanying extras are fun - I've got a feeling I'm not done experiencing them yet.
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reviewed by Sharon Schulz-Elsing
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