Bolt (John Travolta) is a small, cute white dog who was adopted by Penny (Miley Cyrus) when he was very young. Since then, Penny has become the star of a hugely successful sci-fi/ action series and Bolt is her ever-present sidekick with super powers of his own. The adventures they share are wildly improbable, very dangerous and they always seem to escape danger through the use of one of Bolt's ever-present powers. But Bolt doesn't know he is in a television show; he thinks it is real and that he actually has these powers and his mission is to fight bad guys. Through a series of accidents, Bolt ends up in New York, far from the Los Angeles studio that is his home. He is determined to save Penny from the Green Eyed Man, the ever-present villain in their show, and comes across a cat, Mittens (Sussie Essman, TV's "The Larry David Show") and takes her prisoner. Soon, they meet Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster in his exercise ball who simply idolizes Bolt and is more than ready to join the team and help out with the mission. The trio begins to make their way West. At the same time, Penny's agent, director and mom urge her to accept the truth; Bolt is gone and they need to find a replacement, to help keep the show going and everyone employed. As Bolt, Mittens and Rhino travel west, they come across three sets of pigeons who provide some needed comic relief.
Written by Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams and co-directed by Byron Howard and Williams, "Bolt" is a very funny, very good-looking animated effort. And it is available in 3-d, which is an added bonus but certainly not the main reason to go and see it. Interestingly, "Bolt" was made in and produced for 3-D, but there are really no 3-D tricks, lunging swords, fists, etc., coming out of the screen. The 3-D merely enhances an already beautiful film, giving it a further level of reality.
The film begins with a lengthy excerpt from one of the television shows, showing Penny and Bolt making it through increasingly dangerous and improbable situations, fighting off the henchmen of the "Green-Eyed Man", Dr. Calico (voiced by Malcolm McDowell) their television show nemesis. It is an exciting and fun sequence and it helps to show us Bolt's world through his eyes. Bolt is kept at the studio, in his own trailer, and really thinks he is leading this life, that he has these magic powers, that he must defend and protect Penny at all costs. The director rebuffs one of Penny's pleas to let Bolt come home with her. Because Bolt believes he is living the life of a superhero, the director believes the canine gives a more realistic performance.
A series of circumstances lead Bolt to end up on the East Coast. He becomes frantic to get back to Penny, fearing for her safety. He happens across Mittens (Susie Essman) who demands 'protection' payment from some birds. Soon, he has captured her and she becomes a very reluctant ally in his quest to get back home. Eventually, they meet Rhino (Mark Walton), a hamster in his exercise ball who immediately recognizes his hero, Bolt, and is game to help out in the adventure. As they make their way across the country, their verbal exchanges lead to a lot of laughter and help the film flow. They also, inevitably, bond and become partners in the quest to return to the West Coast. Reluctant partners, but partners none the less.
Soon after they set off, they come across a group of pigeons, complete with New York accents, who are scarily realistic. Every movement seems cribbed from video of real birds. Then, when they begin to speak, the illusion becomes even more surreal. They could be real pigeons that speak. One of the pigeons insists he recognizes Bolt but can't place him even when he has some big hints. It is a funny cameo.
As they make their way across the country, the filmmakers gives us a visual depiction of the progress of the journey, using an old-fashioned, simplified map, a 2-d cut out of the characters tracking their progress. It is a nice visual touch and adds depth to the film.
During the journey, they meet two more groups of pigeons, each of which is different, but very representative of the area where our trio of heroes is. Each tries to help, again in a way unique to their geography, but each group really only serves to provide laughs.
Eventually, Bolt, Mittens and Rhino make it back to LA and arrive back at the studio just in time to put their new found friendship and Bolt's true powers to the test.
"Bolt" is a lively, well-animated fun film with a lot of laughs. And it is animated in 3-D. A definite bonus, but not the film's only selling point (like the recent "Journey to the Center of the Earth"). It’s a film worth your time and effort.