At Showcase Cinema and Quality 16

Courtesy of Disney

3 out of 5 stars

Talking dogs and hamsters aren’t supposed to appeal to people over the age of 10. Somehow “Bolt” does.

Bolt (voiced by John Travolta, “Pulp Fiction”) believes he has special powers. The titular canine star of a fictional TV show, Bolt operates under the misguided belief that his TV super powers exist outside of a Hollywood soundstage. Believing his human owner Penny (Miley Cyrus, “Hannah Montana”) has been kidnapped, Bolt escapes from the studio to find her, but is accidentally shipped to New York in the process. He then discovers that his super powers no longer work and must come to terms with the fact the he’s just an ordinary dog. All the same, he is determined to return home to Penny. Along his trip back to Hollywood, he encounters an amusing group of characters: a declawed, cynical cat named Mittens (Susie Essman, “Curb Your Enthusiasm”); Rhino (Mark Walton, “Chicken Little”) the overly enthusiastic hamster; and a cast of pigeons.

“Bolt” isn’t a nail biter. It’s a G-rated animated movie, so there isn’t a lot here that will move someone to the edge of her seat. It does have a wholesome charm, but it never quite achieves the charisma of other successful family films like “Finding Nemo.” The story is fairly predictable and a happy ending is guaranteed from the start. The plot doesn’t take any unexpected twists, and yes, the hamster does get a bit annoying. Yet the movie is generally funny and well written. It’s not something to be taken too seriously. “Bolt” is a major step up from some of Disney’s less impressive animation efforts like “Chicken Little.”

The voices of each character fit perfectly. Even though Miley Cyrus has a part in the movie, there’s no trace of Hannah Montana in Penny’s character. The human characters, especially, are wittily crafted and manage to make the audience laugh even before saying anything. Both the woman in the trailer park with millions of hamsters and the animal control officers are fairly true to their stereotypes, but they seem to add more humor than insult to the film.

The movie does have an appeal for all ages, probably to the credit of the hilarious pigeon characters. They’re fairly slow in an endearing sort of way and definitely deliver some of the best lines accompanied by some funny twists of animation. One of the most memorable scenes is when Bolt comes across some Californian pigeons that only eat whole grain bread crumbs, not whole wheat bread crumbs. The pigeons make the movie.

Then again, maybe its appeal stems from the fact that this is a Walt Disney production and most people have gotten used to being happily swept away by brightly colored, eerily realistic animated worlds with talking animals. No one can ever get too old for that.

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