I wasn't expecting Bolt to be this much fun. I kept laughing out loud. One touching part late in the film made me tear up. And the visuals are virtuoso.
The story has lots of familiar touches. Its road trip plot channels The Incredible Journey. Pooch Bolt sincerely thinks he has true superhero powers, much like Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story. The truth is that he is on a television series, and has been living a lie most of his life (The Truman Show, anyone?) His human, a preteen girl named Penny, is a child actress, although she truly loves Bolt and longs to give him a normal doggie life.
Although the plot could have been stronger, the visual effects and look of the film are amazing. I kept being distracted by the perfection on the screen. My poor daughter, who went with me to see the movie when it was released in theaters, had to endure me continually tapping her arm, saying "Did you see that?! The smoke looks REAL!" or "The rust on the train looks PERFECT!"
A number of scenes use techniques I learned about watching a Pixar documentary on the Wall-E DVD. It's about the imperfect lens, or how cameras have inherent limitations. Animation of course doesn't use cameras in the traditional way. Yet in Bolt you see example after example of the filmmakers enhancing the reality of the movie by building in imperfections that don't have to be there. For instance, in one shot Bolt looks up at the sunny sky. The screen shows the squared-off circles you'd see if you pointed a camera's lens into the sun. The film also uses variable depth of field, much like a cameraman does when shooting a live-action movie. It's as if a camera is adjusting its lens as the scene progresses.
Bolt is voiced by John Travolta, and Penny by Miley "Hannah Montana" Cyrus. Both these likable actors delivered true-life, believable characters. They even sing together in the closing duet, "I Thought I'd Lost You."
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