Friday, January 16, 2009

BOLT 3D - old school

BOLT is a 3D CGI animated adventure for kids, produced by the Disney Animation Studio newly under the direction of John Lasseter of Pixar fame. Lasseter is the director behind TOY STORY and CARS and he's clearly the big brand name in the marketing of this film, rather than debutant directors Byron Howard and Chris Williams.

The first thing to say is that while Disney has bought Pixar, the animation departments are separate. And while Lasseter claims to have fired the execs and put the control back in the hands of the creative guys, BOLT feels like a conservative and conventional Disney movie compared to Pixar classics like WALL-E and RATATOUILLE. Yes, BOLT follows the Lasseter code in having comedy driven by character and situation rather than pop-cultural references, Dreamworks style. But for all that, it seems a rather mediocre, though still enjoyable, effort. As for the 3D, Lasseter is not one of those guys who designs a film specifically to give opportunities for stuff to fly out of the screen at the audience, as in JOURNEY TO THE CENTRE OF THE EARTH or MONSTER HOUSE. Rather, he thinks the point of 3D is to immerse the audience in the experience. Maybe, Lasseter's right - maybe that's how 3D should best be used. But for all that, I couldn't help but be disappointed at how unshowy the use of 3D was in BOLT.

Anyways, as I said, BOLT is harmless if unmemorable fun. John Travolta voices a cute dog called Bolt who stars in a prime time TV show that's a little like Inspector Gadget. Every week he saves the life of his friend Penny (Miley Cyrus) and defeats the evil Dr Calico (Malcolm McDowell). Bolt really thinks he has superpowers because the TV producers keep him in isolation between shows to get "real" performances, TRUMAN stylee. But when Bolt thinks Penny's been kidnapped and escapes to find her, he realises that in the real world he's just another dog. It's up to his new found friends Mittens (Susie Essman) and Rhino (Mark Walton), to show him that he can be a hero regardless.

Earnest moralising aside, BOLT is a good laugh. Mark Walton steals the show as the TV obsessed hamster Rhino, but I also loved James Lipton's cameo as The Director. The downside is that the movie has been hijacked as a vehicle for Miley Cyrus. Moreover, it doesn't have the audacity of WALL-E or the visual richness of RATATOUILLE. To that extent, it's a bit of a disappointment.

BOLT 3D was released in 2008 in the US, Canada, the Philippines, Russia, Italy, Poland, Indonesia, Singapore, Israel, Spain, Venezuela, Portugal, Ukraine, Bulgaria, Mexico, Taiwan, Chile, Peru, Iceland, Turkey, China and South Korea. It is currently on release in Australia, Brazil, Egypt and Croatia. It opens on January 22nd in Argentina, Germany and Hong Kong. It opens on January 29th in Hungary and Estonia and on February 6th in France, Greece, Sweden and the UK. It opens on February 12th in Belgium, the Netherlands and Finland. It opens on February 19th in the Czech Republic and Slovakia and in Japan on August 1st.

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