"Bolt" Blu-ray Review
April 01, 2009 by James Harvey
While not the runaway hit that Disney hoped for upon its theatrical release, Bolt amassed a respectable $114 million during its run and gaining a size-able fan-base. An all-new CGI feature from the Mouse House, Bolt tells the tale of a superhero dog who's life isn't exactly what he thinks he is and, naturally, finds himself in over his head quite quickly. While the film does tread some does walk the well-trodden path with predictable plot points and twists, Bolt manages to overcome any shortcomings with its undeniable charm, sharp wit, and plenty of heart. One of Disney's best releases in recent years, not including the Pixar releases of course, Bolt brings us a charming adventure story that is also beautifully animated and a thrill to watch.
Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) is the star of the biggest show in Hollywood. The only problem is, he thinks the whole thing is real. When the super dog is accidentally shipped to New York City and separated from Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus), his beloved co-star and owner, Bolt springs into action to find his way home. Together with his hilarious new sidekicks Rhino (voiced by Mark Walton) – Bolt's #1 Fan – and a street-smart cat named Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman), Bolt sets off on an amazing journey where he discovers he doesn't need super powers to be a hero.
I have to say that I had a lot of fun with this movie. Sure, it did follow most of the predictable story points and such, but wow, not only is this a really fun movie to watch, but it's absolutely stunning to look at. Opening with a sharp spoof of the current Hollywood action films that's both rousing and filled with great satire, the movie takes a steep turn about ten minutes in once Bolt's real life comes into the play and the film's plot officially kicks off. Before I go further, I have to say that opening sequence of Bolt's fictional television life was superbly animated and full of some great action-packed sequences. The highway sequence in particular, with Penny on her scooter being chased by evil henchmen, had some really brilliant directing and some great visual gags (the use of "bullet-time," in particular). All well executed with a host of obvious montages to action films from the past decade or so.
And while the pace and tone of the film does change when we enter reality, and the cross-country journey begins, I don't think it hinders the film. As you can tell by the synopsis above, through a series of events, Penny and Bolt become separated, with Bolt ending up across the country and the super-hero dog has to travel back to his "person." Now, the journey is pretty basic and predictable throughout, with Bolt discovering that his television life isn't exactly reality, but it's still really enjoyable to watch. Whether it's the inclusion of crazed fanboy hamster Rhino or the street-smart Mittens, these three are able to bounce off each other and keep the movie rolling along very nicely. All three are like-able in their own ways as each character brings something different to the table. There's a couple stop-offs during the cross-country trip and our heroes do run into a few tight spots, but nothing really unexpected and nothing that isn't resolved a few moments later. I found that the creators behind the movie managed to add some surprising depth with the character of Mittens something that seems obviously counter-balanced with the insanity of Rhino. When we find the reason why Mittens is on the street, well, I found the scene both heart-breaking and well played by Essman.
To continue on with the cast for a moment, I was really surprised at Travolta's work as the lead character, Bolt. Personally, when I first heard he was cast in the film, it seems like a major casting mistake. But, after hearing his voice come out of Bolt's mouth, it completely worked. Travolta brings an air of self-assurance to the character, which is fitting for Bolt's fake television life, and is surprisingly vulnerable as Bolt's life begins to crumble toward the climax of the film. Travolta really does a surprisingly affective job and deserves some major kudos for his work. Cyrus, Travolta's co-star, just slides into her character. Given that her voice isn't that recognizable, at least to me, I didn't find her voice work distracting or obvious in any way. The entire cast is solid all around, come across across as pleasing to the ear. Greg Germann, as Penny's sleazy agent, deserves a special nod for his hilarious small role in the flick.
Like I said, the film isn't exactly original, but it's enjoyable and surprisingly sharp at times. It takes some surprisingly sharp swings at the Hollywood business, including some that hit pretty close to home for Disney. And the movie knows the formula and even mocks it, with the hamster at times basically reciting the plot to the movie and what's going to happen next. There are pop culture jokes and industry insider jabs, but all this serves to actually fuel the solid moral story of Bolt, and aren't just random cutaway gags. They actually serve the story and make the journey all the more enjoyable. Seriously, when even the movie itself is mocking it's own predictable story, it just becomes all the more entertaining, and Bolt manages to do just that. Plus, it takes a lot of surprising swipes at American culture, almost all of them very memorable.
While it's true that the film could have been better, I think it stands up easily to some of Disney's best animated features. Sure, it can't top features like Beauty and the Beast or Finding Nemo, but it's easily up there with fare like Monster's Inc. or Hercules. It's good, but not great, but Bolt still manages to be a really enjoyable romp. With some great characters, a relatable and near-perfect protagonist, plus humor that both kids and adults will enjoy, Bolt was truly one of the underdogs of last year's animated feature releases, and here's hoping that this super-heroic pup will find the recognition he deserves on home video. Bolt is a solid animated adventure that comes Recommended to own.
In a smart marketing move, Disney Home Video has released Bolt in a special three-disc Blu-ray release, containing a Blu-ray edition of the film, a DVD-edition of the film, and a Digital Copy of the film. All of this is housed in a double-wide Elite Blu-ray case. So, three versions of the film? Well, I suppose this can be considered overkill, and, to an extent, I'd agree, but it's also a smart move on Disney's part, providing three different editions of the movie, and essentially future-proofing this release, in one package. One can assume that while other editions of Bolt are available, this will be the one the company pushes, and rightfully so. It's a great deal when you factor in what you get and the price you'll pay.
As we take a look inside the package, I have to say that the transfer for this film is absolutely gorgeous. I can't begin to tell you how many times I found myself absolutely lost in the film, admiring every spec of detail, whether it's Bolt's fur or the lush country-side. It's a stunning looking film, with the 1080p high-definition transfer taking in every little detail with amazing results. I couldn't find a single flaw with the Blu-ray transfer on this release. The clarity is stunning and, thankfully, the audio is just as impressive. Every little subtle gesture or high-octane explosion comes out crystal clear. Basically, the movie is loud when it needs to be and silent when it needs to be, and it's handled perfectly. This is probably one of the best transfers I've seen for a Blu-ray release. Yes, I've given audio and video transfers great reviews before, but Bolt raises above that. I'm sure it has something to do with the fact that it's an animated feature, but still, I can't help but be in awe at how beautiful this film looks on hi-def.
Moving along to the extras, all of which are presented in either 1080i or 1080p, it's a good collection, but not great. First up is the cute Super Rhino animated short, which is basically a 4-minute cartoon focusing on Rhino and, for the most part, it's definitely cute, but feels more like an afterthought than anything. Then we get roughly six minutes of deleted scenes with director introduction, "In Session: With John Travolta and Miley Cyrus," which runs for one second short of a minute, "I Thought I Lost You" music video, a "Bolt's Be Awesome remote-controlled game, a featurette on the fi;m's directors, a featurette on the voice-over work in the film, a look at the developmental process the film undertook, and a nice collection of art galleries highlighting various aspect of the film's production. The longest featurette here, "Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt runs about ten minutes, while the rest last no more than seven minutes at the most with most struggling to make it over five. The bonus features here are all short and snippy, and do provide some nice bits of info, but fail to leave any real lasting impression.
The second disc in this collection is the DVD edition of this release, featuring the same main feature and bonus content, and the third is the standard definition Digital Copy of the movie.
The home video release for Bolt is solid and, if you want to own all three editions of Bolt, then this is the best way to go. You get the DVD release, for those who haven't upgraded their home theater, the Blu-ray, for those who have, and a Digital Copy for your portable media device. If you love the movie, then this is the way to go. Bolt is a fun movie that got the shaft when it hit theaters last year, but I'm sure will find the audience it deserves now on home video. While the extras are nothing to bark about, they do provide a few glimpses into the production of the movie and manage to leave behind a few interesting tidbits. But, in the end, it's all about the main feature and Bolt delivers. It's not the most original movie, but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in pure heart and sharp comedy. If you're looking to pick up this movie, then Bolt: Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Copy Edition is the way to go!
Bolt is now available to own on Blu-ray and DVD.