Bolt surprised me for several reasons. As a CG-animated Disney film without the Pixar imprimatur, I assumed there was no way it could have been any good. Throw in the leads in the cast — John Travolta and Miley “Hannah Montana” Cyrus — and you’ve got a recipe for disaster. So why on earth did I end liking it so much? My gut tells me that at least some of the credit has to go to John Lasseter. I will admit to being a huge nerd for Pixar, but I think anyone who compares the recent works of both Pixar and Disney animation studios will agree that the former has produced far and away the superior films. So when Lasetter, director of both Toy Story features (among others) was named by Disney as Chief Creative Officer of both animation studios after Disney purchased Pixar in 2006, it lent hope to a lot of long time Disney nerds like myself.
Bolt works on multiple levels: as a tale of friendship between a little girl and the eponymous dog she has to leave behind every weekend lest he realize he is not the super-dog he portrays on their joint weekly television series; as a tale of self-discovery when the sheltered Hollywood dog escapes the studio and ends up in the real world; as the emotional healing of a declawed and abandoned kitten who no longer trusts anyone but herself. There are other subplots running throughout, including a satirical look at the exploitation of child actors by the Hollywood machine and the comedic hi-jinx of an over-enthusiastic hamster who meets his hero, Bolt the super-dog, and wants to go adventuring with him. I was particularly touched by Mittens the cat, trying to fend for herself in the big city without her claws to protect her and wondering what she did wrong to end up being thrown away by the callous humans she thought would love and protect her. Bolt, still under the impression that cats work for the fictional man with the green eye whom he (Bolt) believes kidnapped his human, forcibly enlists her in his search for the girl. I have animals that were thrown away, and even though I knew it had to be coming, I was really rooting for her to get a happy ending.
Whether or not it was Lasseter’s Miyazaki-like genius for animated story-telling that made Bolt so enjoyable, or some other confluence of events, the point remains that it is a good movie. It’s not quite up there with Wall-E or Finding Nemo, but it’s quite a bit better than Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Treasure Planet, Home on the Range, Dinosaur, Chicken Little or Emperor’s New Groove. [Bite me, dude — Emperor’s New Groove was great! — ed.]
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More Criterion arrives on Blu-ray this week, and that can only be a good thing. The latest James Bond, accompanied by three of the older films [four if you count Never Say Never Again — ed.], also arrives on Blu-ray. I personally find Casino Royale a tad over-rated (the parkour-influenced opening sequence already feels dated, as does the film’s exploitation of the then-current poker fad) but I still think it’s a pretty good movie. While I don’t like Casino Royale as much as most, I did enjoy Quantum of Solace more than most people seemed to. Funny how that works out, sometimes.
Finally, Tales of the Black Freighter is out. Not that I have any interest in it at all, but at least all the Watchmen apologists — who dismiss all criticism of the film by pointing to some mythical director’s cut at some unspecified future date that will supposedly include the Black Freighter side plot as well as all kinds of additional footage that will, in their words, redeem the film — can at least see the animation they insist will make Watchmen a better movie. It is hard to argue about the merits of a film when you are discussing a movie that exists in theaters and they are defending a movie that exists in their imagination. I’ll give a Watchmen director’s cut a chance when and if it is released. That doesn’t change the fact that the movie as it was released was a failure on multiple, contradictory levels.
Thanks for reading Add to Queue, GameSpite’s weekly round-up of US Blu-ray release highlights. Sorry, rest of the world; region locks are the industry’s way of saying they still don’t understand the Internet. Oh, I lie now and then, I suppose. Sometimes I’d tell them the truth and they still wouldn’t believe me, so I prefer to lie. – Cover art courtesy of Amazon. Follow Levi Tinney on Twitter, or add him to your PSN or XBL friends list: VsRobot. You can also contact him via e-mail via levivsrobot [at] gmail [dot] com.