Skip to content, or skip to search.

Skip to content, or skip to search.

Home > Movies > Bolt


Critic's Pick Critics' Pick

(No longer in theaters)
  • Rating: PG — for some mild action and peril
  • Director: Chris Williams, Byron Howard   Cast: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, Mark Walton, Malcolm McDowell
  • Running Time: 96 minutes
  • Reader Rating: Write a Review

Share this listing


Action/Adventure, Animation, Comedy


Clark Spencer


Walt Disney Pictures

Release Date

Nov 15, 2008

Release Notes

Nationwide (Sneaks)

Official Website


The Disney animated blockbuster-to-be Bolt is a delightful family movie, and if I’d seen it as a kid I would have been deeply traumatized. Back then, kid flicks weren’t meta; they didn’t riff on the discontinuity between real life and the artificial universe of TV and movies. They were plain-old fairy tales, parables of self-reliance. Bolt opens with a little girl, Penny, choosing an adorable doggy at a pet shop. So far so standard. (If you don’t want to know the basic premise, stop here.) Then it jumps to the next, fantastical level: It’s five years later, Penny’s scientist father is in the clutches of a megalomaniac, and Bolt is equipped with superpowers to protect his daughter. Cue a rollicking chase and the pulverization of bad guys. Just as we’ve absorbed all this, we’re on to level three. We’ve been watching the filming of a TV show, except (and here’s the final level) Bolt has been kept in a state of ignorance. He does not know he’s not a super-dog and that Penny is never in peril. Yes, this is The Truman Show with talking animals.

Bolt finally settles into an old-fashioned tale of a hero and his sidekicks—here, an emaciated, mouthy female alley cat and an obese, celebrity-worshipping hamster in a clear-plastic exercise ball—on a cross-country journey, with a climax that would comfortably fit into Lassie. But the central question is up to the minute: Will Bolt find out he’s an ordinary (talking) dog and survive that knowledge and discover his essential dogginess? It’s a fascinating trend: state-of-the-art Hollywood fantasies pegged to the notion that state-of-the-art Hollywood fantasies are our chief impediment to being “real.”

I could cavil about the abundance of Hollywood in-jokes (pigeons who are hustling screenwriters) and the cat’s heavy-handed one-liners (“Listen, Cujo … ”). But as Bolt, John Travolta is inspired: His voice still cracks like an adolescent’s, and he has the perfect dopey innocence. Susie Essman gives the cat’s reflexive bitchiness some depth (she’s a hurtin’ hellion), and I have to admit that until I heard Miley Cyrus’s Penny, I underestimated the throaty expressiveness of her voice. Mark Walton (an actual cartoon-voice guy and not a marquee name!) makes the fat hamster (who might have been an irritant) sing. In theaters equipped to show the film in 3-D, your tickets come with glasses, through which the animals look even more huggable.


Top 10 Movies

  1. Moana
  2. Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them
  3. Doctor Strange
  4. Allied
  5. Arrival
  6. Trolls
  7. Bad Santa 2
  8. Almost Christmas
  9. Hacksaw Ridge
  10. The Edge of Seventeen