The Omega Dog

Bolt – The forty-eighth of Disney’s official animated films is the story of a dog who stars on a television show and believes his TV life to be real. There’s more than a hint of The Truman Show there, although it kind of seems even crueler to do that to a dog. Dogs can have emotional breakdowns when you leave for five minutes, so seeing a person he loves constantly subjected to danger must be traumatizing for poor Bolt. The girl with whom he co-stars is called Penny, although it’s never entirely clear whether that’s her real name or just her name in the show. I wonder if it was inspired by Inspector Gadget, which also has a girl named Penny who hangs out with a heroic dog and battles an evil mastermind with a pet cat. Bolt also believes he has super powers because the show works in the special effects in real time. That’s a little difficult to accept, but whatever.

Through a weird coincidence (there are a lot of those in this film), Bolt ends up in a package being sent to New York, and has to find his way home in the company of a cat named Mittens, whom he believes to be working for the evil Dr. Calico. It turns out that, while Mittens has the pigeons of the city firmly under her control due to her tough act, she was actually declawed and then abandoned by her family. Apparently this isn’t all that uncommon, as cages at stores that have cats for adoption often say that a family moved without the cat. Were they trying to make this movie the cartoon equivalent of those tear-jerking ASPCA commercials, or what? The New York pigeons, by the way, are so similar to the Goodfeathers from Animaniacs that I sort of have to wonder how Disney got away with it.

Also along for Bolt’s cross-country journey is a hamster named Rhino, who is a big fan of Bolt’s show and dreams of being a hero. The dog eventually has to come to terms with the fact that he doesn’t have super powers, but he still seems to be incredibly resilient, surviving a lot of falls and such. Upon returning to Hollywood, Bolt helps to save Penny from a fire. She then quits the show and takes in Bolt, Mittens, and Rhino. The show replaces Bolt with a look-alike and the girl with another child actress, and I have to wonder if they’re doing exactly the same thing to the new dog. The movie comes across as kind of a mostly subdued screw-you to Hollywood executives, and it’s probably a bit of an in-joke that Penny is voiced by Miley Cyrus, who was a child star for Disney (although she apparently wasn’t the first choice; that was the even younger actress Chloe Grace Moretz, who remains as the voice of a younger Penny). Jenny Lewis, another former child star (and who, coincidentally, has a new album out this week) provided a song for the film (actually two, although they only used one) and has a brief voice cameo as an assistant director. So there was some interesting commentary, but overall it struck me as somewhat of a lesser effort. Maybe it’s partially because they made a big deal out of how Bolt’s experiences in the show were not real, yet the real-world part of the plot relied on just as many action sequences and bizarre coincidences. Which isn’t to say I’m against these things, just that it didn’t really play up the differences between fantasy and reality when I kind of thought that was supposed to be one of its major themes. Maybe I’m not looking at it the way the creators intended, though.

This entry was posted in Animals, Cartoons, Music, Revisiting Disney, Television, VoVat Goes to the Movies and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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