Who’s In It: The voices of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell
The Basics: Bolt is a dog who has superpowers and saves his owner Penny from a variety of evildoers. Except that actually he doesn’t. He’s the star of a television program but he thinks it’s real. It’s The Truman Show but with a talking dog. So what happens when our hero accidentally gets shipped off to the non-backlot-and-non-craft-service-table-intensive world? Reality. But not the fake kind you see on reality TV shows. The real kind of reality. Well, as real as it can be when cartoon animals do all the talking.
What’s The Deal: This is a movie about how the entertainment industry is what’s standing in the way of true self-actualization and decent, humble behavior and goodness. So to play your part in this ultimate game of “Gotcha!” please now go spend all your disposable income at the local multiplex for this double-edged sword of a kiddie movie and then take your spawn to the Disney Store afterward and buy them the talking Bolt plush toy for Christmas or their little hearts will be broken and you’ll be the one to blame. Got it?
Now That The Meta-tainment Portion Of This Review Is Over, Here Are Some Answers To Your Questions:
1. No, John Travolta isn’t annoying at all. Lesson here: put him in a giant female fat suit and let him sing or keep him locked in a studio voicing an adorable doggie and nobody gets hurt.
2. Yes, it’s funny and sweet and worthy of the Disney name. That's no longer a given and has to be announced with it's true. Thankfully it's true here. It's no Kung-Fu Panda, but it'll do.
3. All the Hollywood insider jokes will go right over kids’ heads—and possibly some adults’ heads, too—but they don’t intrude so much that you find yourself wanting to cut your wrists. Sarcasm and irony are the bane of recent children’s films and this one keeps it way more in check than other recent offerings.
4. As usual, the sidekick animals steal the show. That tradition goes all the way back to those singing mice in Cinderella. Maybe even before then.
Shameless Kid-Baiting, 101: MILEY CYRUS!!! But whatever. It's her time. In a few years it'll be someone else's.