Monday, November 17, 2008


Though Pixar has admittedly upped the standards we once held animated films to, it's not really fair to criticize or dismiss the latest toon just because it doesn't stack up to the works within that company's catalog; few films -- live-action or animated -- do. But, Disney's "Bolt" is one of the few such flicks that actually merits a comparison to a Pixar film; unfortunately, that film is "Cars." Market-researched within an inch of its life, the thoroughly mediocre "Bolt" has been carefully made with the 4-10 demo in mind, from its inclusion of willing-statutory-rape-participant Miley Cyrus, to a by-the-numbers, easy-to-follow plot about a deluded TV-star dog (unenthusiastically voiced by John Travolta) trying to find his way home. We get even more insincere celebration of Americana from Disney, another "leave consumerism/Hollywood behind and embrace your inner fun/true self" subplot (a la "Cars") and a strategically inserted intended scene-stealer, this time an overzealous hamster who worships the ground Bolt walks on. The animation's very pretty -- especially if you see the 3-D version -- but the uninspired plotting, familiar jokes and phony emotional beats serve to make this feel like a movie you've seen many a time before (1985-born me was particularly reminded of "Homeward Bound," "Oliver & Company," "Bingo" and "Beethoven"; incidentally, all better films than this... well, maybe not "Bingo"). The smallest of tykes will be wowed and McCain-voting suburban moms will scream "Cute!" till they turn blue, but this is an inferior animated product, even before the paint-by-numbers plot leads to a laughably contrived climactic set-piece involving a fire. Between "Beverly Hills Chihuahua," "Madagascar 2," and this, it's enough to make any moviegoing parents long for this past summer, where "Kung Fu Panda," "Speed Racer," "WALL-E," "Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2," and even "Space Chimps" sufficiently filled the decent kids-movie void.


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