Bolt (2008) movie poster

(2008) dir. Byron Howard, Chris Williams
viewed: 11/22/08 at the Balboa Theater, SF, CA

The latest Disney animated film hit screens yesterday, Bolt.  Featuring voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus, it might make a lot of money and be slick and polished in its animation, but how many cynics would go see it?  How many cynics have 4 and 7 year old children whom he loves taking out to the movies any excuse that arises?  Am I even a qualified cynic?

I have to say, the trailers looked at least promising for this film, more well-produced and energetic than a lot of the animated fare that is out and about.  But I wasn’t all that optimistic.  You can’t be if you’re a cynic.

Felix loves seeing films at the Metreon downtown, but doesn’t like going to the San Francisco Centre’s cinema for some reason.  Since this one was playing at the outlying local cinema the Balboa Theater, I took the opportunity to take them somewhere different for a change.

The bottom line from this film.  It’s got a complicated scenario if you’re a little one.  A dog, who has been raised since a puppy to “believe” that he is the super-dog that he plays on TV, with a myriad of powers, constantly battling evil with his “human” Penny at his side…uh, is suddenly released by accident into the real world, believing that Penny has been abducted by the “green-eyed man” and winds up in New York, the real New York, and has to find his way back to LA and “reality” with the sidekicks alley cat and hamster in a mobile ball.

A strange fact of many of these major films is that the side characters are more interesting than their no doubt, test screened and approved heroes are.  The true “star” of this film is Rhino the hamster, who gets the best gags and lines (even though the trailer made him look sort of re-tread himself).  The film has a large action bent, from the opening sequence that is part of the television narrative, to the big escapes and finales that wind up defining the film’s center.

There is a lot of emotionality and “heart-warming”-ness, too.  But a film like this is merited on its pure enjoyability.  Felix and Clara both really liked it.  Felix loved the hamster.  Clara, not sure how much of the story she absorbed, liked the dog.  I liked it pretty well.  I liked the hamster.

My biggest problem, like I said, was the fact that the story was quite complicated for a kid, though that was their primary audience.  It’s hard enough for a kid to distinguish between the real and the fantasy than to have them try to understand a character’s motivation which is inspired by making the discovery that one’s whole life has been a fantasy, a charade.  Not that subversive thinking or concepts are bad, if they’re understandable.

Bolt is fully comprhensible to an adult, probably to the 10 and up crowd, perhaps a couple years younger.  But he’s an animated dog who is marketed to the little ones.  Can’t they at least come up with a scenario that is readable?

And yet, a good time was had by all.

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