The picture focuses on Bolt (voiced by John Travolta), who was picked out of an adoption center by Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) when Bolt was a little puppy. Years later, Bolt and Penny work together on a television series, where Bolt stars as a dog with superpowers, faced with the task of protecting Penny.
While things are initially going well (the opening action sequence is both funny and a superbly choreographed action scene), Bolt finds himself lost in the streets of New York City. While that's a problem in itself, there's also the fact that Bolt believes that his powers are actually real and that Penny is actually in danger from Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell), the villain from the TV series.
With the help of a streetwise cat named Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman, of "Curb Your Enthusiasm") and an overly chipper Hamster in a ball (Mark Walton), Bolt makes his way across the country to Los Angeles in order to save Penny. "Bolt" isn't the success it is due to the rather thin story: the picture is a buddy road comedy with an assortment of little slapstick, action (including the expected animal control escape) and comedy episodes (not to mention a few sentimental moments thrown in and a few Big Important Lessons.) Additionally, it's more than nice that the emotional moments feel genuine and the movie's lessons don't feel heavy-handed.
What makes the picture work are the performances, especially Essman, who manages to somehow tailor her bitter, acidic, sarcastic persona for a G-rated audience. She's a perfect match against Travolta's performance - and Travolta provides one of his most engaging, enjoyable performances in years. Walton deserves credit for making a hyperactive character that could have easily grown irritating downright hysterical (not to mention more than a little bit demented.) These three may not exactly have seemed like obvious casting choices, but they all work superbly off one another.
The film's animation is also terrific; while not quite up to Pixar levels, it's superb both technically and in terms of composition, character design, etc. The story may be a little on the slight side, but the movie offers great performances, is technically stellar and has a lot of heart (the last two things may be due - at least in part - to Pixar/Disney Animation head John Lasseter, who served as exec producer.) "Bolt" isn't flawless, but it's a pleasant surprise that stands out as one of the more enjoyable animated films in recent years.
"Bolt" is available in a Blu-Ray/DVD Combo Pack (Blu-Ray edition + DVD edition + digital copy), a Deluxe DVD edition (w/digital copy) or in a regular DVD edition.
VIDEO: "Bolt" is presented on Blu-Ray by Disney in 1.78:1 (1080p/AVC). This is an absolutely gorgeous presentation of the CGI-animated feature, and it's quite difficult to find any fault with the presentation. Sharpness and detail are astonishing - the picture appeared absolutely crystal clear throughout, with impressive depth to the image at nearly all times.
No edge enhancement was noticed, nor were any print flaws (not surprising, as this is likely a direct-from-digital transfer) or other concerns noticed. Colors sparkled, appearing bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other faults. Black level remained solid, as well. Overall, this was a beautiful, demo-quality presentation that should delight fans.
SOUND: "Bolt" is presented in DTS-HD 5.1. While family films are generally tame in terms of sound design, "Bolt" livens things up a bit, using the surrounds quite well during the action sequences to deliver effects and ambience. Audio quality was excellent, with crisp, clear effects and well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: The video extras are presented in HD. "Super Rhino" is a new animated short where the hamster character has to save the day and be a pop star. It's a brief, but very funny little short film. "Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt", "A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmaker's Journey" and "Creating the World of Bolt" are three short production featurettes that provide brief behind-the-scenes clips and interviews with cast and crew. We also get a pair of deleted scenes with introductions from the filmmakers, a music video, art galleries, an interactive game ("Boltís Be-Awesome Mission") and BD-Live features. I'm a little surprised that there aren't more extras than what's here.
The third disc also offers a digital copy for download to a PC or portable device.
Final Thoughts: "Bolt" isn't flawless, but it's a pleasant surprise that stands out as one of the more enjoyable animated films in recent years. The Blu-Ray offers outstanding video quality and great audio quality, but is a little light on bonus features. Still, this is a sweet, entertaining family film that's certainly recommended.
The Film B+