Thursday, November 20, 2008

Can a super-dog challenge vampires this weekend?

What if your life and your world was all a lie?

Sounds like a sci-fi movie or a political thriller...or maybe a dog with super-powers who discovers he's not so super, but still very special.

That's the story of Bolt, Walt Disney's latest animated movie. There was a preview recently at the UA Market Square in Sacramento. Parents and kids filled the theater to check out what could be Twilight's strongest rival right through the Thanksgiving holidays. While some theaters are showing it in 3-D, we got the 2-D version.

The movie centers on Bolt (John Travolta), a dog with powers that would give Krypto and half the cast of Heroes a run for their money. Actually, he's been raised to think his TV show is the real world. As far as Bolt thinks, he and his person, Penny (Miley Cyrus), are always battling the evil Dr. Calico. The pompous director, who reminded me of Christof from The Truman Show, explains that's how Bolt is good at his job. Never mind the fact the show is a cross between Lassie and Alias.

He's also the butt of jokes on the set, as he's teased by two "evil" cats who exploit the fact that Bolt is really clueless. That winds up backfiring on the cats as Bolt gets loose, then falls into a box that winds up getting shipped to New York. Now Bolt tries to figure out how to get home and "save" Penny, who he thinks is under Calico's clutches.

On the way, he's puzzled as to why his super-powers have failed him. He crosses paths with an alley cat named Mittens, who acts tough except for the fact she has no claws. They also meet Rhino, a hamster who travels in a plastic ball and is Bolt's number one fan. Mittens is amused that Bolt is surprised he can be injured, or that his "bolt" on his side isn't a birthmark. It isn't long, however, before they rely on each other to get to California.

When I first heard about this, I though this was basically Buzz Lightyear as a dog. Actually, it turned out to be more. The story is straight-forward, and with a typical message that you don't need super-powers to be a hero. It's how they get there that makes this a good film. It also talks about illusion and identity, as the studios try to solve the problem of a missing Bolt with, well, another illusion. It also deals with Penny and how the pressures of her job, and keeping Bolt fooled, affect her relationship with her dog. I also liked how Bolt and Mittens learned to get along as they travel west. You'll just have to see what they wind up doing. Rhino was also a riot, as he though watching Bolt on TV would make him a super-hero. Actually, it makes him Jack Black as a hamster, but it still paid off.

Since not everyone is under the spell of Twilight, Bolt should do well over the next two weeks. I still have a soft spot for Wall-E, the obvious choice for Best Animated Film in next year's Oscars. I strongly suggest getting this on DVD, too. I got the single-disc version because I didn't need as many extras as the 3-disc version. Besides, it bothers me the digital file version of the movie will expire after one year, instead of keeping it as long as you'd like.

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