2008 Certificate: pg

Synopsis

John Travolta voices Bolt, a canine TV superhero raised to believe that he really does have special powers. But reality bites when he bounds off his Hollywood set and winds up in New York. Convinced that his human companion (Miley Cyrus) is in evil hands, the delusional pooch embarks on a cross-country mission, assisted by streetwise alley cat Mittens and his number-one fan - a hamster in a ball called Rhino. Delivering Oscar-winning animation in 'Disney Digital 3D' - but losing none of its charm in regular dimensions - Bolt's blend of knowing humour and high-energy adventure is bound to get everyone's tail wagging.

Directors

  • Byron Howard

  • Chris Williams

Cast

  • John Travolta

  • Miley Cyrus

  • Malcolm McDowell

  • Susie Essman

Review

Once upon a time there was a king called Disney who ruled the world of animation. For many years, the people could not get enough of his creations.

But as time went by, his wares began to lose their sparkle and his once-loyal subjects began to leave for the nation of Pixar, led by a wizard called John Lasseter whose computerised cartoons were much more fun.

Disney had no choice: Pixar had to be bought and Lasseter made 'chief creative officer' of the new kingdom. Thus came Bolt, the first fruit of the union. And everyone crossed their fingers, for $7.4 billion is a lot to pay for a happily ever after.

Though acting only as executive producer, Lasseter's pawprints are all over this canine spin on The Truman Show, a thoroughly entertaining combination of Disney cutes and Pixar smarts.

That said, the show begins rather unpromisingly with a perfunctory short featuring Tow Mater the tow-truck from Cars, designed purely to ease viewers into the 3D experience.

But whichever way you're looking at it, the main event gets off to a flyer with Bolt the superdog (Travolta) stopping cars in their tracks, leaping over helicopters, zapping bad guys with his laser vision, and saving his beloved owner Penny.

Of course, it's all a sham. Bolt is just an ordinary pooch brought up to be the star of a Hollywood TV show where everyone is contractually obliged to maintain his super-illusions - even Penny (Cyrus, who inhabits her own fake world as pop idol Hannah Montana).

But, taunted out of his trailer by a pair of feline co-stars, the hoodwinked hound is unwittingly packed off to New York only to discover - in a series of amusing reality checks - that his powers have deserted him.

Believing that Penny is still in the clutches of his green-eyed screen nemesis, Bolt press-gangs cynical stray Mittens (Curb Your Enthusiasm's resident snark, Susie Essman) into getting him back to LA.

Further help comes down the line in the roly-poly form of starstruck rodent Rhino, who keeps his faith in Bolt even when the ear-flattening truth finally dawns.

As engaging as the intrepid trio are, their scenes are stolen on both coasts by some wonderfully characterised pigeons; Italian-American wiseguys in New York, script-pitching fitness freaks in LA. Funny.

The only real villain here is Hollywood itself, bursting to its soulless seams with egotistical directors, crass agents and ratings-obsessed network execs.

They too provide plenty of nicely-observed moments, but perhaps leaving little girls in burning buildings is taking the selfishness a little too far.

And, as with The Truman Show, it's probably best not to dwell on matters like how you can fake super-speed and why Bolt doesn't know what food is. Hey, I'm not the one asking you to buy the idea.

Moot points aside, it's a terrific ride. You won't miss anything if you don't see it in 3D, but it does look cool and certainly gives the action sequences that extra bit of welly.

So while any remaining competitors slink away with their tails between their legs, Pixar and Disney just need to find a name for their new pedigree. Here, Pixey!