This is a solo Disney project, without the involvement of Pixar (the genius company responsible for Ratatouille and WALL-E). Be at ease, however, for the Mouse House has done a top job and, whilst not reaching the giddy heights of the films just mentioned, their Bolt is funny, enjoyable, and terrifically entertaining.
It’s a modern spin on The Incredible Journey (in which three animals trek across America), combining mash-up elements of the superhero and espionage genres that served Pixar’s The Incredibles so well. Bolt (voiced by John Travolta), is the canine star of a hit TV show, filmed in Hollywood, but things go awry when he accidentally gets himself shipped across the country to New York City. To complicate matters, he thinks his TV-show powers are real, a la Buzz Lightyear in Toy Story.
There’s a great sense of Americana, of a nostalgic, romantic view of the United States that hasn’t been seen on screen for a while. This comes across strongest in a sweet little road trip montage, set to a country song by Rilo Kiley’s Jenny Lewis. And throughout the film, the animation style puts the CG characters against a hand-painted backdrop, further adding to the traditional appeal.
But the real kicker is the 3D presentation [available at certain cinemas in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch]. I can’t speak highly enough about how eye-poppingly amazing this looks. The opening action sequence, in particular, was made just so much more thrilling by the optical illusion of depth.
Bolt suffers a little from a script that verges on formulaic; one that borrows rather than invents. But the combination of winning characters, heart-warming sentiment and well-choreographed action gets a big lick of approval.