Toon Talk: Bolt
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by Kirby C. Holt
Walt Disney Pictures
MPAA Rating: PG
Bolt, Disney’s latest attempt at replicating the CG success of Pixar, opens with an extended action sequence as thrilling as any from their sister studio. Here’s the set-up: “A brilliant scientist is captured by a nefarious villain and it is up to his daughter, a spy kid named Penny, to rescue him. But how can a little girl accomplish this seemingly impossible task, you say? Well, it helps that Penny’s loyal pet Bolt is actually a genetically altered super-canine with such amazing powers as super-speed, laser vision and even a “super-bark”. The evil villain’s henchmen bring out the big guns to stop them, but they are no match for the powerful pooch.”
And cut. It is here we discover that what we just saw (exploding helicopters, menacing motorcycles, child endangerment) was all part of the elaborately choreographed filming of a television action show. See, Penny (voiced, surprisingly un-annoyingly, by Miley Cyrus) is just an actress (and, apparently, a highly trained stunt person) and Bolt (voiced by a miscast, too old for the part John Travolta … wasn’t Zac Efron available?) is just a regular dog.
The twist, as revealed in an exposition-heavy monologue by the show’s manic method director (voiced, with a sly wink to his day job as host of Inside the Actors Studio, by James Lipton), is that Bolt doesn’t know he’s in a TV show. The reason being is that, if the dog believes the danger is real, his performance on screen will be more believable (in other words, a canine version of The Truman Show). However, ironically, this has the opposite effect on the film itself, as all believability is thrown out the window at this point.