Sunday, November 23, 2008

"Bolt" - spoiler movie review (and trailers for upcoming Disney movies)

If Disney is releasing a new animated movie, it must be time to go to the El Capitan theatre on a Friday night! Usual time, our normal seats.

There was a new holiday stage show before the film, and I thought it was ok, but not as good as their normal shows. It was a bit lighter on characters than normal, and I *really* disliked that the princesses (Cinderella, Aurora, Snow White and Jasmine) were singing the Christmas songs along with the rest of the cast. To me, it just seemed weird for them to be singing "normal" songs and not Disney songs. I did think all of the performers were good though.

"Bolt" is the story of a dog who is injected with super powers - he has lightning speed, a mouth/teeth grip of steel, a laser stare, and a powerful bark that would make even Vavoom envious. Bolt belongs to Penny, whose father is a scientist who has been kidnapped for his knowledge by evil villain Dr. Calico. However, when Penny's father won't give up what they want to know, they decide to obtain a little leverage by trying to kidnap Penny. But that's not gonna happen, at least not while Bolt is around.

Oh, by the way, this is not the story of the movie. It's the story of the television show "Bolt" within the movie "Bolt". Everyone knows that it's just make-believe - except Bolt. The creators of the show feel that the only way to get real reactions out of Bolt is to let him believe that he actually has all of these powers (which unbeknownst to him are courtesy of the special effects department) and that Penny is actually in danger and that he saves her time and again. However, when an executive from "the network" says that ratings are falling because a certain demographic is getting bored, the creators script in a cliffhanger where Penny actually gets kidnapped - but of course, Bolt thinks its real and is out of his mind with worry because he needs to rescue Penny. Bolt is accidentally released from his captivity, and he BOLTS out of the studio and ends up in a box that is shipped across the country to New York. He then has to make a "Cars"-esque travel trip back to Hollywood to save Penny.

I really, really enjoyed this movie, and I think I laughed my way through most of it. The first (fake) scene with Bolt in the pet store was definitely an "awwww" moment. Part of what I loved about the movie were the television show segments, with all the gimmicks and tricks that you see in action movies nowadays, especially the bit with slowing down the action during exciting action moments - I especially liked it with the frisbee bomb, especially when it stops long enough for us to see how much time is left on the countdown.

I liked Bolt generally, though I have to admit I did think he was much cuter as a puppy, but I generally think that about dogs anyway. While I didn't pinpoint John Travolta as the voice of Bolt in the trailers, for some reason, I couldn't stop noticing that it was him during the movie, so I found that to be a bit distracting. I did think they did a good job with Bolt, though, and the sequence in the trailer park where Mittens is teaching him to be cute was just hilarious. Styrofoam as kryptonite to Bolt. Too funny! And how cute was Bolt when he stuck his out the window to feel the wind in his face, and he stuck his tongue out too? It was fun and a little sad to watch as he realized that he did not in fact have the powers he thought he did, but he was so happy to see Penny again. But it was devastating when he saw Penny with nuBolt, unaware that her actions were scripted. As far as he was concerned, she had replaced him in her heart, and he was C-R-U-S-H-E-D. The look on his face, and his slowly backing into the darkness was just heartbreaking. It was also sad that he was always stuck in his trailer and never allowed to go outside and, as Penny says, just be a dog.

And I absolutely.loved.Mittens. I'm a cat person, anyway, and it's been noticed that I particularly have a penchant for black-and-white cats, so Mittens would seem tailor-made for me. She was scrawny and bitchy and bossy and threatening to the pigeons, but then you find out how cynical she is. And then you find out why. When she revealed that she'd been left behind when her family moved, I immediately thought of Jessie from "Toy Story 2", and I got a little teary. If they'd launched into a "When She Loved Me" type of song, I would have just lost it. And I thought her abandonment was even worse than Jesse's since she was declawed, so when she was left in the wild, she was left defenseless. In addition, with Jessie, the people would have just thought they were leaving a toy, not aware of the "feelings" held by the toy. With a cat, though, you're talking about a living creature.

Of course, Rhino steals quite a bit of the show. He was a bit on the manic side, but I don't think he was over-the-top as to be annoying. He was just really funny. Here's an article about how a story artist ended up providing the voice of Rhino.

And then, there were the pigeons. Anyone who has seen "Finding Nemo" will probably never forget the seagulls, and they are a favorite of many, but as much as I loved them, I think I love the pigeons even more. The seagulls were pretty much one-dimensional, but with the pigeons, it was the entire effect of the characterization. The animation on their quick jerky movements was absolutely brilliant. It was impossible to not just stare at them while they were doing that. And the whole twisting their head was just too funny. And I have to say that the "writing partners" and personal assistant trio in Hollywood was just too perfect. And fittingly, it was the pigeons who actually referenced Nemo!

I thought Miley Cyrus did a good job as the voice of Penny, though I don't know her voice, so that wasn't distracting to me. And in the scenes of Penny from the television show - does she not look like she should be part of the The Incredibles family?

The Incredibles family - at least as we currently know it.

Is Penny a lost Incredibles child?

A friend posited that Penny looks a bit like a younger version of Mrs. Incredible. Maybe "Bolt" is a prequel to "The Incredibles", and this is how Mom Incredible got her start?

Mom Incredible.

I was also amused that the studio that produces the "Bolt" television show, Sovereign Entertainment, was depicted with the arches commonly known as being those of Paramount Pictures.

Fake studio.

Real studio.

It makes sense that Disney didn't want the fake studio to be associated with the real Disney studio, though, given the massive fire at the end. I was actually taken out of the movie there for a minute - can you imagine what would happen to a studio where the under-age lead actress of a hit television series were inadvertently left in a burning stage, and the actress came THISCLOSE to perishing, saved only by the efforts of a dog? It was pretty sad when Bolt found the hole to crawl through to safety, but Penny couldn't fit and wouldn't make it, so she told him to go, but he wouldn't leave her side and snuggled into her instead. Awwwwww. But then, his massive bark becomes a reality! That was so cool. (And I can't entirely pinpoint why, but that particular segment reminded me of Muffy in the "Fire in Space" episode of the original "Battlestar Galactica".)

There was one effect that I thought was really spectacular. When Mittens and Rhino arrive at the studio, Rhino sees one of the evil doctor's henchman and goes to basically bump him in the leg. When the guy picks him up and sees him, the shot is on the guy's helmet, and you can see the reflection of Rhino in his plastic ball come into focus as the guy brings Rhino in closer to look at him. That looked great.

I was amused that this being a movie about a heroic dog, cats get bashed pretty good, sometimes literally. Mittens starts off as a bully, and then when Bolt has her tied to him, he drags her around a lot, slamming her into things at times. And then, of course, there's the name of the evil villain, not to mention the doctor's evil cats. The one with the evil laugh who was taunting Bolt was just too funny.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who feels this way, but I sure wanted to put a pin through the head of Penny's agent. And yes, the happily-ever-after ending could be considered trite, but I liked it.

There are walkaround characters of Bolt and Rhino that I thought would be in the opening show, so I was surprised they weren't there. They're reportedly making appearances at the Disneyland Resort.

Miley Cyrus with the Bolt and Rhino walkaround characters. I think Bolt's face looks a bit odd.

Here's the official website for the film.

Before the movie, they showed a number of trailers for upcoming Disney movies.

"Earth" - I'd seen the trailer for this when I was in a theatre for another movie a couple of weeks ago. It was initially the Disneynature logo that caught my attention, but the footage from the movie looks awesome. And it doesn't hurt to have James Earl Jones as your narrator. The release date, appropriately enough, is April 22, 2009 - Earth Day. It depicts a year in the life of three extraordinary families. Here's a link to the trailer.

Disneynature company logo.

Poster for the film.

"Up" - This is the next offering from Pixar, to be released in May 2009. I'm not entirely sure what the film is about, but the trailer is really funny. Here's the link to the trailer.

"Race to Witch Mountain" - I'd heard that a remake of "Escape to Witch Mountain" was being worked out but hadn't paid attention to much else. The trailer looks awesome! I remember liking the original a lot, though I can't remember that much about it. I can't remember if I saw the sequel, "Return from Witch Mountain". It's interesting to note that both Kim Richards and Ike Eisenmann, who played the kids in the original movies, are both making appearances in this new film. (I think I mostly remember Kim Richards from "James at 15". Here's a link to the trailer.

Both "Oliver and Company" and "Pinocchio", two Disney films I haven't previously seen, at least in their entirety, are being re-released at the El Capitan Theatre in early 2009, so we'll be going to see those there. We're definitely seeing "Up" there, and presuming "Earth" is being shown there, we're going for that as well. I'm not sure if we'll go there for "Race to Witch Mountain". It may depend on what additional offerings they have - usually something like props - but there's also the appeal of seeing a film like that in a pristine digital showing at such an amazing theatre. We'll be spending a lot of time at the El Cap in 2009!


JeffG said...

While the studio definitely looked like Paramount, I liked that the address on Bolt's dog tag was the Disney Feature Animation building.

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