Disney cartoons account for some of the best movies I've ever seen (Toy Story, Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast) and some of the very worst (Atlantis: The Lost Empire). Given that I've been unimpressed with some of the studio's recent CGI offerings, including Meet the Robinsons and Chicken Little, I didn't have a lot of interest or hope for Bolt. The trailer left me unimpressed, and the involvement of John Travolta didn't help. But since Disney was showing it in 3D for free on the Wonder cruise ship, I was happy to attend.
My low expectations went a long way to helping me appreciate how inventive, enjoyable and funny this movie is. At its very core, Bolt cribs heavily from Toy Story: in that film, the superhero Buzz Lightyear must be convinced that he doesn't really have superpowers and that the nature of his entire existence is a lie, just as superhero Bolt must be convinced that he doesn't really possess superpowers and that the nature of his entire existence is a lie. Also in TS, a group of the beloved characters must find their way home to their owner, Andy, against all odds—just as Bolt must find his way home to his owner, Penny, against all odds. Notice any parallels?
Despite the derivative nature of Bolt, it's still a fun ride, bursting with charm and full of great lines and characters. The movie is all but stolen by a fat hamster named Rhino who scurries around in a plastic ball. Susie Essman does a great job voicing the alley cat Mittens, and Greg Germann is hilarious as The Agent. In addition, there are a trio of pigeons that are deftly animated, and teen megastar Miley Cyrus is on hand as Penny. My faith in Disney CGI has at least been temporarily restored—and expectations are through the roof with the Randy Newman-scored The Princess and the Frog, due this Christmas. Rating: 5/5.