Walt Disney Studios
Now Showing at: most major theaters.
Review by: Larry Thomas
Back in 1953, when the first wave of the 3-D craze swept movie theatres across the nation, there were a couple of problems. First, the process was not perfected; so many people got eyestrain and headaches from the Polaroid glasses, which were not particularly comfortable to wear. Secondly, and even worse, the studios were so anxious to get as much
3-D product on theatre screens as possible that corners… and budgets… were cut to speed the process. A lot of the 3-D films seen during 1953 were not particularly good. By the time 1954 rolled around, audiences had tired of the headaches and ho-hum films, and
3-D went back on the shelf except for special occasions.
Now in 2008, 3-D is back and seems to be generally improved. The digital format lends itself to the process, and when combined with the comfortable plastic glasses, the headaches and eyestrain are virtually gone. But the studios haven’t learned the lesson about the films themselves. With the exception of the big screen IMAX 3-D films, and the digital live action adventure Journey to the Center of the Earth this past summer, the bulk of 3-D offerings are computer-animated films aimed at kids. That’s not a bad thing, but it does seem to hinder the use of imagination and quality.
The latest 3-D offering from Disney is Bolt. The premise is decent…a dog that stars as a super hero on a TV show is never allowed to leave that environment, and the producers do everything necessary to make him believe that he does have super powers. When a twist of fate puts Bolt in the real world, he has to learn some hard lessons. Along the way he encounters a variety of characters in his quest to get back across the country and the young girl who was his co-star, and who really loves the little canine.
This fish-out-of-water trek provides both some humor and life lessons for the youngsters, but we’ve all traveled this road before. One of the big problems with the film is that both Bolt and his “person” are pretty bland, and being voiced by John Travolta and Miley Cyrus doesn’t help. It falls on the peripheral characters to add the fun to Bolt. The various pigeons are all funny, and have good dialogue. There’s an abandoned streetwise feline named Mittens, who is dragged along by Bolt on his quest. A goofy hamster in a plastic ball is reasonably appealing, and the three employees at an animal shelter provide the film’s only belly laughs.
And when it comes to the 3-D process it’s, at best, adequate. There are perhaps one or two shots that give you the expected “in your eyeballs” 3-D effect. The rest of the film does not make good use of the technology.
Bolt is not a bad film. It’s fine for the kids. Those in the theatre on Sunday afternoon were quiet and attentive. And there are a few in-jokes and satirical characters to make it interesting for adults as well. The best voices are provided by Susie Essman as Mittens; Greg Germann playing a typical Hollywood agent; and Malcolm McDowell as the evil Dr. Calico. But Bolt’s ninety-six minutes are about twenty too many, and there’s really no reason to pay the two-dollar surcharge for the 3-D glasses. In fact, except for the 3-D and the big names voicing the leads, Bolt could have easily been a direct-to-DVD release.