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The Movie: Bolt, released November 26
The Buzz: Disney does makes computer-animated films without Pixar, but usually, they’re thundering disappointments like Chicken Little. Can this movie–about a dog who plays a superhero on a TV show, but doesn’t realize it’s all pretend–turn their ship around? (Also, can it survive a mini-scandal? Lilo & Stitch creator Chris Sanders had the original idea and called it American Dog, but then he was removed as director.)
(see the trailer after the jump)
The Review: Before I saw this trailer tonight, just before WALL*E, I hadn’t heard of this movie.
At first, I thought I was watching a preview for a cartoon spy thriller,Â complete with crazy villains, impressive weapons, and an earnest father trying to communicate with his daughter before disaster strikes. (Very Jack Bauer!)Â I didn’t even know Bolt the Dog was the star.
But then I learned the conceit, and I was convinced something awesome was going on.
Several jokes, made me laugh out loud, like when Bolt tries to do a super-jump over a construction site and crash lands. And when he befriends a danger-hungry hamster named Rhino, I was sold. Sold! A few years ago, I went crazy for that penguin from Happy Feet, but now Rhino has replaced him as my irrational cartoon love affair.
Rhino’s pudgy-fluffy design is almost too cute to handle, and Mark Walton‘s voice acting kills me. Near the end, when he squeaks “I’ll get my ball” like he’s about to pee with delight, I can feel myself reaching to buy a ticket. I need more of that hamster, and I need him now.
So that’s a good sign, right? Funny jokes, likable characters, and surprising turns of event?
And yet… I have concerns. For one thing, the preview implies a standard-issue plot about misfit friends who overcome obstacles without losing their innocence.
And it seems inevitable that Bolt will have a sentimental scene where he realizes he’s not a superhero at all.Â Then he’ll reach deep within himself to find the things that truly make him great. This will likely involve a chase scene, and the unexpected return of some earlier plot detail. As in… Bolt’s love of swiss cheese will result in him smelling the swiss cheese on a bad guy’s sandwich, which will reveal the villain’s hiding place. Bolt’s “average” gift saves the day, so he’s a hero all the same. Cue the final joke from the hamster, then a theme song from Randy Newman.
Dominic von Riedemann notes that Buzz Lightyear has a similar arc in Toy Story, where he realizes he’s just a toy and then makes the best of it. Since John Lasseter has a hand in both projects, could there be other similarities?
And then there’s the joke about pigeons seeing Bolt on the side of a bus and still not recognizing him. And the fact that James Lipton is listed in the credits. Please God, don’t let this movie be an endless string of pop culture references. I can’t take it.
So to recap: Hamster, yes. Movie, sure. Reservations, some.
(Bonus points for having a brilliant dog protect a girl named Penny. Go-go-gadget in-joke!)
The Rating: Three and a half Hamster Wheels (out of 5)