(2008) *** Pg
97 min. Buena Vista Pictures Distribution. Directors: Chris Williams, Byron Howard. Cast: John Travolta, Susie Essman, Miley Cyrus, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell.

/content/films/3369/2.jpgAre your kids ready for an existential movie? Turns out they are: Disney's CGI-animated action comedy Bolt is, at its core, a story of one individual's discovery that his sense of reality--and therefore his sense of identity--has been seriously skewed. In the hands of directors Byron Howard and Chris Williams, writers Dan Fogelman and Williams, and executive producer John Lasseter, this potentially dark tale has its emotional moments, but generally proves hilarious, exciting and delightful.

For starters, the existential hero is a dog: Bolt (winningly voiced by John Travolta), star of his own hit primetime TV show. On a regular basis, Bolt uses his "superpowers" to "save" his owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) from the evil plans of Dr. Calico (Malcolm McDowell) and his henchmen. His life is thrilling, despite its constant threat level, and Bolt is courageous and confident enough to live happily and unbothered, for the love of Penny. But he's living a lie perpetrated by the show's director (James Lipton of Inside the Actors Studio), a lie that shatters when Bolt escapes from the studio in a misguided attempt to save Penny. Out in the real world--New York City, no less--Bolt's illusions begin to shatter. It's The Truman Show for pets.

Powerless but still courageous, Bolt determines to make his way back to Penny, despite the nagging suggestion that perhaps her love, too, is an illusion. On the way cross-country, Bolt meets the drolly seen-it-all cat Mittens (Susie Essman of Curb Your Enthusiasm) and his number-one fan, a hyperactive, hefty hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton) that proves to be a breakout character. Kids may agree with Rhino's comment to Bolt that "every minute spent in your company becomes the new greatest minute of my life!" Bolt is action-packed (with each of these sequences brilliantly conceived, composed, and edited), and there are plenty of genuine laughs to be had along the way to a predictably heartfelt conclusion. As if Bolt didn't supply enough fun already, it's capped by a sweet little end-credit tune, "I Thought I Lost You," sung by Cyrus and Travolta: now that's added value.

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Aspect ratios: 1.78:1

Number of discs: 4

Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1

Street date: 11/8/2011

Distributor: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Disney upgrades its terrific Blu-ray package for Bolt. Having debuted as one of the celebrated Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy editions that give families the options of how to watch the movie at home or on the run, Bolt returns as a Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy combo pack housing a Blu-ray 3D disc. The A/V quality is truly stunning: the hi-def image—in 2D and 3D—is flawless in detail, depth, and color, and the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix delivers perfectly potent and amazingly immersive surround effects that bring the theatrical experience into the living room. Specifically, the Blu-ray 3D transfer adds plenty of value and offers a very appealing choice to those looking to add to their Blu-ray 3D library. Having been designed with a 3D theatrical release in mind, Bolt has plenty of pop, jutting out of the screen both in steady depth of scenery and in dynamic action sequences, with characters and debris jutting out or flying into your living room. Finicky viewers may find that crosstalk distracts (YMMV), but there's no question that the 3D presentation makes the film more exciting and visually impressive.

The Blu-ray disc gathers a number of diverting bonus features. The Bonus Short "Super Rhino" (4:27, HD) allows Rhino the hamster his moment in the spotlight as the star of his own comic action-adventure.

Two "Deleted Scenes" (6:37, HD) come with an introduction by directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard.

The mini-featurette "In Session with John Travolta and Miley Cyrus" (:59, HD) has no depth, but gives a glimpse of John and Miley bopping and lip-syncing in the studio as well as a few fluffy comments.

The "I Thought I Lost You" Music Video (1:47, HD) intersperses clips from the film with more of John and Miley at the mics.

Bolt's Be-Awesome Mission is a game allowing kids to "help Bolt defeat the Green-Eyed Man."

"A New Breed of Directors: The Filmmakers' Journey" (4:34, HD) features Williams, Howard, executive producer John Lasseter, and animators Joe Bowers, K.C. Roeyer, Simon Christen, Steve Meyer, and Marlon Nowe discussing the directors' feature debut and the process of making the film.

"Act! Speak! The Voices of Bolt" (9:47, HD) takes a look at the work of the voice cast, with comments from Williams, Howard, Lasseter, Travolta, Cyrus, Susie Essman, James Lipton, Mark Walton, character animator Amy Smeed, and producer Clark Spencer.

"Creating the World of Bolt" (6:45, HD) focuses on the methof of importing hand-drawn backgrounds into the computer. Participants include Spencer, art director Paul Felix, director of look and lighting Adolph Lusinsky, Williams, Howard, and Essman.

Bolt Art Galleries include Character Design, Color Script, Storyboard Art, and Visual Development.

Last but not least, the disc is BD-Live enabled to connect with family and friends via Movie Chat, Movie Challenge, Movie Mail and "Disney Movie Rewards Live."

Review gear:
Panasonic Viera TC-P55VT30 55" Plasma 1080p 3D HDTV
Oppo BDP-93 Universal Network 3D Blu-ray Disc Player
Denon AVR2112CI Integrated Network A/V Surround Receiver
Pioneer SP-BS41-LR Bookshelf Speaker (2)
Pioneer SP-C21 Center Speaker
Pioneer SW-8 Subwoofer

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