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A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The movie is intended to entertain, not educate. But kids may learn a bit about how Hollywood works.
The movie has a sweetly positive messages about loyalty, determination, and teamwork. Characters who resist others' affection eventually learn to embrace it, and Bolt discovers that being loved is much more important than having super powers.
Positive Role Models
Penny and Mittens are strong female characters, and Rhino is a courageous sidekick. Bolt is at first melancholy about not being a real super dog, but he overcomes his initial blues to find his true courage.
Violence & Scariness
The peril is mostly in the TV show within the movie. After an early sequence (which could be intense for younger or more sensitive kids) it's made clear that the violence is manufactured, since the audience (unlike Bolt) sees the crew setting off explosions, catching stuntmen, etc. In the "real" world, there are cartoonish pratfalls and slapsticky violence, but nothing too disturbing -- until a tense, scary fire during the movie's climax that puts a central character in danger.
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A couple of mild insults (like "stupid") among the animals.
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Products & Purchases
Featured brands include The New Yorker, Tiger Beat, U-Haul, The Tonight Show (but not with a recognizable host), and several Las Vegas hotels, like the Bellagio; New York, New York; Bally's; and Caesar's Palace.
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that kids are definitely going to want to see this animated adventure starring Miley Cyrus (well, her voice, anyway), even though it has nothing to do with Hannah Montana. There are some scenes of peril (explosions, hostage situations, evil cats) in the TV-show-within-a-movie, but after the first few action-packed minutes of the movie, it's made clear to the audience that it's all manufactured. There's also a tense, potentially scary fire during the movie's climax. But most of the movie's content is age-appropriate for its intended audience. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
Travolta is surprisingly evocative as a dog with a brave exterior but sensitive spirit. It's also refreshing to hear Cyrus as something other than her self-promoting persona or her alter ego, Hannah Montana. The pair have a touching on-screen chemistry, as do Travolta and Essman, who's best known as Jeff Garlin's shrewish wife Susie on HBO's Curb Your Enthusiasm. Toning down the edge in her New York accent, Essman's Mittens may remind viewers of a more assertive Jessie from Toy Story 2.
With John Lasseter installed as chief creative officer at Walt Disney Animation, Pixar's influence is noticeable in Bolt, and that's a good thing. It's not a Pixar film, but the revolutionary studio's meticulous attention to detail and dialogue are evident. There aren't too many wink-wink double entendres or inside pop-culture jokes -- just a simple story about a super dog who comes to terms with being super to the only person who counts.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.