Steve’s Wonderful Reviews of Disney: Bolt


Release Date: November 21st, 2008

Inspiration: N/A

Budget: $150 million

Domestic Gross: $114.1 million

Worldwide Gross: $310 million

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 89%

IMDB Score: 6,8/10

Storyline (per IMDB): Bolt, an American white shepherd, has lived his whole life on the set of his action TV show, where he believes he has superpowers. When separated from the studio by accident, he meets a female alley cat named Mittens and a hamster named Rhino. He’s trying to find the way home, to the studio. Along the way, he learns that he doesn’t have superpowers and that the show is not real.

Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through the Disney canon with our next film as the 2000s are about to come to an end and we will hit a brand new decade. Suffice to say, the 2000s films have not been the best though there have been a few bright spots sprinkled in here and there. This is a film that has also gained a solid reputation since its release with some probably thinking that it might even be a bit underrated, and hopefully that turns out to be true as the bar has been set pretty low for this decade.

Voice Cast: We continue on with the trend of having an entirely brand new cast in each of these films and like the last few, we only have one returning actor and that is Mark Walton who voices Rhino in a memorable role. Moving onto the newcomers, we have John Travolta who voices Bolt as he was perhaps hitting the peak of his career by this point, and then we have Susie Essman who voices Mittens in one of few film roles as she was much bigger on TV at this point. We then have then-Disney star Miley Cyrus who voices Penny as she was at her peak during her run as Hannah Montana, and we should also mention Chloe Grace Moretz who voices a younger Penny as she was really getting her career started. Next, we have Malcolm McDowell who voices Dr. Calico in a relatively minor role and then we have Nick Swardson who voices Blake in a minor role, and then we have Diedrich Bader who voices the veteran cat in a minor role and then we have Greg Germann who voices Penny’s agent in one of his few voice roles. We then have James Lipton who voices the director of the show though he will forever be remembered for hosting “Inside the Actor’s Studio”, and then we have Kari Wahlgren who voices Mindy in one of her few major film roles and then we have Grey DeLisle who voices Penny’s mother in a minor role. The rest of the actors in the film pretty much fill out minor roles as we have wrestling legend Randy Savage who voices Thug, J.P. Manoux who voices Tom, Brian Stepanek who voices Martin, Jeff Bennett who voices Lloyd, John DiMaggio who voices Saul, and Jenny Lewis who voices the assistant director as well as sing one of the songs in the film. After straying away from having a major star in the previous film, we go back to have a few major stars in this film and it will be interesting to see if they decide to keep with that direction going forward.

Hero/Prince: We have a pretty interesting hero to talk about here in that he thinks that he is a hero, but in reality he is as normal as you and me and that is the dog Bolt who is adopted by Penny when he is a puppy. They become the stars of a TV show and Bolt is trained to believe that everything around him is real despite Penny’s concerns about wanting him to be a normal dog, and Bolt mistakenly believes that Penny is kidnapped and he goes to find her only to accidentally be shipped to New York. He is brought to Mittens who he demands take him back to Penny and they travel across the country, and at an RV park they meet Rhino who is a huge fan of Bolt as Mittens realizes who Bolt really is and she tries to convince him he is not a superhero. They are captured briefly by animal control though Bolt is able to save Mittens as the two continue across the country and Bolt learns to become a real dog, and Mittens offers him a chance to stay with her in Las Vegas though Bolt decides to continue on. He returns to Hollywood though sees Penny with a new dog and thinks she has forgotten him though Mittens convinces him otherwise, and after a fire breaks out in the studio Bolt manages to lead the firefighters to him and Penny as they eventually retire to the Midwest and live a normal life. This is an interesting spin on things as we typically have a character that lives the pampered and fancy life before being forced into being a normal person, but this was slightly different as Bolt is led to believe that he is a real superhero only to learn that he is a normal dog. Despite coming to this realization and accepting the fact, he does end up saving the day in the end by helping Penny get to safety. In the end, Bolt ends up being a fine hero and while he probably won’t rank high amongst the other heroes, he is still a solid hero.

Princess: N/A

Villain: N/A

Other Characters: Once again, we have a film where the majority of the characters in the film end up in this category though only a real handful are focused on, and we start off with Mittens the cat who lives as a stray in New York City and extorts the pigeons for food. Bolt finds her and believes she is in league with Dr. Calico as she agrees to take him back to Hollywood, and as they travel across the country she learns that he is on a TV show and tries to convince him he is not a real superhero. They are captured by animal control though Bolt escapes and along with Rhino, they rescue Mittens from the shelter and she teaches him how to be a normal dog as they make their way across the country. When they reach Las Vegas, she offers him a place to stay though he refuses and she tells him that humans don’t care about them as she reveals she was left behind from her previous owners, and Bolt leaves anyway and Rhino convinces Mittens to go after him. When she learns that Penny does love Bolt, she convinces Bolt of this and in the end she is adopted by Penny and they move to the Midwest. We then have Rhino the hamster who is Bolt’s biggest fan and he is starstruck when he meets him in the RV park, and he goes along with Bolt and Mittens blissfully unaware that Bolt is just acting and is not a real superhero. After Mittens is taken to the shelter, Rhino pumps Bolt up and they rescue Mittens before continuing on to Hollywood, and in Las Vegas Bolt leaves on his own and Rhino convinces Mittens that they need to help him. When the fire breaks out, Rhino and Mittens work to help Bolt get into the building to help Penny, and in the end Rhino is also adopted by Penny as they move to the Midwest. Next, we have Penny who adopts Bolt as a puppy and they become the stars of a TV show though Penny believes Bolt should spend time as a normal dog, and after Bolt disappears she is distraught though she eventually agrees to continue the show with a replacement. She still misses Bolt which Mittens sees and tells Bolt just as a fire breaks out in the studio with Penny trapped, and Bolt gets into the building and finds Penny as he draws the firefighters to them and they are saved. Penny quits the show and she adopts Mittens and Rhino as they move to the Midwest and live a normal life. We then have Penny’s agent who is adamant about keeping up the charade that Bolt believes he is a superhero and even has Penny work with a new dog after Bolt disappears, and after Penny and Bolt are saved he tries to exploit it to the media only for Penny’s mother to tell him that they quit. We then have the other humans that show up such as the villain of the show Dr. Calico, the director of the show who also maintains the façade that Bolt is really a superhero, and Mindy who works with the network and threatens the show with cancellation unless they draw ratings for the right demographic. We also have the residents of the RV park who give Bolt and Mittens food, the animal shelter workers, and numerous other humans, and then we have the other random animals that Bolt interacts with throughout his journey. As I have said before, films like this are primarily focused on a handful of characters with the rest mainly being in the background, and we will see if that trend changes as the decade turns.

Songs: I’ve mentioned several times throughout this decade that these films have more songs in them than I ever remembered, and while the songs might not be as memorable as their predecessors it is still good to know that this is one trait that Disney has not completely done away with. With that being said, we do have two songs in the film as we first have “Barking at the Moon” which is sung during the montage of Mittens showing Bolt how to be a normal dog, and it is a fine song for the scenes though again it is fairly standard. The other song is heard at the start of the credits and that is “I Thought I Lost You” sung by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, and it is pretty cool to hear the stars of the film sing the main song of the film and it was a nice touch for the credits. It was probably around here where they realized that the songs used to be the bread and butter of the films, and I think this is evident especially when we talk about the next film as we go back to the standard formula for these Disney films.

Plot: After the last two films which were based on a story, we go back to having an original idea here though again the premises of the film has some familiar tropes to it which is pretty common for these Disney films. In this film, Bolt is the star of a TV show along with his owner Penny though he believes that he is a real superhero and everyone around him plays along with it, and after he mistakenly believes that Penny is abducted by the TV villain he tries to save her though he is accidentally shipped to New York City. He meets Mittens who he believes had a hand in kidnapping Penny and he demands Mitten to lead him to Penny, and they travel across the country before stopping at an RV park where Mittens trains Bolt into tricking humans to giving them food. They meet Rhino who is a fan of Bolt and he joins them on their journey as Mittens learns that Bolt is on a TV show, and she tries to tell him that he is not a real superhero though he doesn’t believe her and they are caught by animal control. Bolt breaks free and with the help of Rhino, they free Mittens from the shelter and they continue on their journey as Bolt learns how to become a normal dog. When they stop in Las Vegas, Mittens tries to convince Bolt to stay with her though he chooses to continue onto Hollywood and Rhino convinces Mittens to follow him, and when he returns Bolt sees Penny with a new dog and thinks he’s been replaced though Mittens tells him that Penny still misses him. A fire then breaks out in the studio with Penny trapped and Bolt rushes in to save her as he uses his bark to lead the firefighters to them, and they retire from the show and move to the Midwest as Mittens and Rhino also join the family and Penny and Bolt begin a normal life. This is a pretty interesting storyline in that you have someone who truly believes they are something that they are really not, and the film sees Bolt come to terms with what he really is and it ends up being a pretty solid plot overall to a fairly solid film.

Random Watching Thoughts: So Silverlake is a suburb in Los Angeles in case anyone was interested; Bolt is definitely the odd man out in that group of puppies; Penny knew she wanted Bolt the minute they locked eyes; So Chloe Grace Moretz had originally been cast as Penny and recorded all the dialogue, but Disney decided to replace her with Miley Cyrus who was starring in “Hannah Montana” at the time and she re-recorded all the dialogue except for when Penny was younger in which Moretz’ original dialogue was kept; They did a good job keeping you in the dark that this opening sequence was part of a TV show; Bolt is way too calm while all that is going on around him; Dr. Calico must really like cats if he has two of them; Tiger Beat magazine; Even Bolt has his own magazine to read to be incognito; Bolt has quite a hard head if he could stop that car with such ease; Bolt just rammed his head into a car at full force and all he wants to do afterwards is scratch himself; The goon says he’ll never talk until his life is threatened and he spills the beans; So Lake Rogaguado is a real lake in the country of Bolivia; Only in a TV show can a scooter outrun a trio of attack helicopters; A flight for Bolivia that leaves in 10 minutes and conveniently has 2 seats available; They use super speed yet the bad guys manage to catch up to them with ease; This is clearly not in real time because that minute has gone far longer than 60 seconds; Nothing beats a heroic jump like showing it in slow motion; That was a huge explosion to knock that cup over when it is so far away; The bad guy throws the bomb onto the helicopter to destroy it and then he shocks himself; Do they really need that large of a force to capture one girl and a dog?; Bolt’s bark is clearly worse than his bite; She says mission accomplished yet they didn’t make it to the airport and her father is still in captivity; So the boom mike wasn’t there to begin with, so where did it come from?; They obviously have no confidence that Bolt won’t be good unless he believes everything around him is real; He has to keep calling her “Mindy from the network”; I wouldn’t think that this show would be marketed towards 18-to-35 year old people and should be centered around children; That’s pretty harsh to fire everyone if the ratings drop by just half a point considering how many other shows survive with such low ratings; Penny wants so hard for Bolt to be normal yet he is committed to the role; Not even is favorite carrot plush toy can sway him; That agent is a pretty stereotypical Hollywood agent right down to his phrase of putting a pin in it; Those cats are pretty mean to tease Bolt like that knowing that he thinks it’s all real; Now that we know it’s just a TV show, we see all the production people and we see how the magic is actually made; Of course Penny’s main weapon would be a penny; So their idea to bring in the slugging demographic is a cliffhanger episode; How do you create a look that says “I’m 13 and I’m fine with that”?; Bad time for the cats to show up and allow Bolt to escape the trailer; How was Bolt able to survive that trip to New York City in a box?; The Global Air Flight logo looks a bit like Pac-Man; He fails to break through the fence only to see a space on the side big enough for him to crawl through; The big slow motion jump only to fall into the hole; Those are the quietest New York City streets I have ever seen; In what would be a common theme in the film, Bolt meets up with three pigeons; Could they make those pigeons anymore like stereotypical New Yorkers?; The lead pigeon says that he recognizes Bolt from somewhere while several advertisements for the show appear on passing vehicles yet he can’t figure it out; The show must be super popular if it is being advertised so heavily on buses and billboards; So Mittens is basically running an extortion and protection racket with the pigeons; That was a quick turnaround from the alley to the bridge and back to the alley; It is weird that Hollywood’s logo on the map is a waffle with sunglasses; Bolt using Mittens’ own words against her and the pigeon calls it out; Even though the moving truck has a picture of Hollywood on the side doesn’t necessarily mean they are going to California; The show is so popular that they are featured on a water tower; “Welcome to Ohio: So Much to Discover”; Complete panic move by Bolt to jump out of the truck; I love how they treat Styrofoam as this great weapon when it is fairly useless; Only Bolt would believe that hunger is some sort of weapon against him and that he needs an antidote; Mittens knows a lot about dogs if she can teach Bolt how to beg properly; I love how everyone just gives Bolt food and not once question if he actually belongs to anyone in the park; So Rhino switches from a soap opera to “The Price is Right” to “Gilligan’s Island” to “Press Your Luck” to the news to “The View” to “The A-Team”; Butter bean dumplings; How can a hamster be 1/16th wolf?; Bolt thinks Rhino is spying on him when he is just a superfan; That’s an interesting place to hang a banner hyping homecoming weekend; Even though it didn’t work like they thought, they still landed on the train; After all that and they end up getting thrown off the train; Of course an animal control catcher would come by; Rhino went out of his way to actually get a ladder; They did a good job making that new dog look like Bolt even though Penny immediately knew it wasn’t the real thing; That truck is running pretty well if it’s nearly empty of gas; I can’t believe that Rhino was able to keep up with the truck; Bolt was so proud when he thought he broke through the door only to learn that Rhino helped him; Rhino would make a great motivational speaker; Rhino fogs up his own ball; Adopt-a-Pet Week, are they that desperate to get people to adopt pets?; Lloyd must be pranking Ester too much if she is threatening to use pepper spray on him; I wonder if those dogs getting excited about the ball was an inspiration for “Up” a year later with the dogs being excited when they hear “squirrel”; I do feel bad for Ester as that was a nice truck; Of course they would find a truck that is hauling a model home; That would be crazy if cats hate dogs because they really want to be dogs; “It hits the ground, it goes to the hound”; You can either be awesome or you can be-awesome; Instead of Waffle House, we have Waffle World; We even have a montage of Bolt becoming a normal dog; Once again, we have a trio of pigeons; They did a good job in making sure Las Vegas was realistic down to making sure each casino is in the right location; That is a lot of food wasted by the casinos; They must be near the Neon Graveyard given the broken down neon sign; The truth finally comes out about Mittens as she was declawed and left behind; It is a bit weird that none of the gas stations that we’ve seen have prices listed; Rhino has definitely watched too many movies; Once again, we have a trio of pigeons as these ones actually recognize Bolt; So those pigeons also pitched an idea for “Finding Nemo”; Sovereign Entertainment; Mittens tries to tell Rhino that it’s all fake yet he is too focused on attacking the extra dressed like a bad guy; That brief moment where you think that Penny actually saw Bolt and was going for him only to reveal she was talking to the new dog; They should’ve done a better job in training that dog so he wouldn’t get spooked so easily; How could they Penny up there and not even attempt to save her?; Either that studio was old or horribly outdated in its fire code if it was being destroyed that easily; After acting like a hero for all those years, Bolt now gets to be a real hero at this moment; That is pretty selfless of Penny to be willing to sacrifice herself to make sure Bolt gets out safely; Bolt uses the vent to give off a real-life superbark; That agent totally got what he deserved when he entertained the idea of exploiting this disaster for publicity; I wonder how many actually thought Penny got her face changed; Perhaps those pigeons need to rethink what people like because Rhino did not like aliens; I wonder if anyone actually questioned why we never learned what happened to Penny’s father; We had a trio of New York pigeons, a trio of Missouri pigeons, a trio of Hollywood pigeons, and now a trio of Midwest pigeons; We get one final montage during the closing credits of Penny, Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino’s life.

Overall Thoughts: Overall, this ended up being a much better film than I ever thought it would be and was to this point easily one of the best films of the decade. Again, the bar had been set so low with some of the films released this decade, but in fairness to this film it felt like it could’ve been released in another decade and worked well against some of the classics of the past. I think it is safe to say that we have finally past the nadir of the 2000s and it seems like we were slowly going back up, and with one film left to go for the decade we will see if that film can end the decade on a strong note. As for this film, it is a pretty solid film and easily one of the top films of the decade.

Final Grade: 7/10