Movie review by
Sandie Angulo Chen, Common Sense Media
Bolt Movie Poster Image
Parents recommendPopular with kids
Super-dog adventure is fun, age-appropriate for kids.
  • PG
  • 2008
  • 96 minutes

Parents say

age 6+
Based on 90 reviews

Kids say

age 6+
Based on 89 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Educational Value

The movie is intended to entertain, not educate. But kids may learn a bit about how Hollywood works.

Positive Messages

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 & Representations

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.

Sexy Stuff

A couple of mild insults (like "stupid") among the animals.


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.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What 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.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 4 and 7-year-old Written byTedbat November 21, 2018

NOT for 5+

Explosions, rockets, gunfire, attack helicopters, tanks, etc. all in the first ten minutes. WAY too intense for young kids. Next problem, try to explain to your... Continue reading
Parent of a 3 and 6-year-old Written bymammaknits May 8, 2009

Not for young kids

I agreed to my daughter's viewing of this DVD because it seemed "harmless enough." However, she couldn't stop talking about the violence: t... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old May 28, 2019

Pretty good, but violent and confusing

First of all, why can’t Penny just stop working there? The people at the studio are mean and they keep Bolt away from her a lot. And Bolt is her dog! The movie... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written byMoviegirl700 March 16, 2019

Good for kids, tear jerking end.

Good show with little romance or language.
Language: 0/5 mild insults like stupid or stink, with some sketchy tv dialogue although it is in the background.
Rom... Continue reading

What's the story?

BOLT (voiced by John Travolta, doing some of his best work in years) is a special dog who's trained to believe he's actually a crime-fighting dog with superpowers, rather than a canine actor. Since puppyhood, Bolt has lived only on the TV show's set and truly thinks his young owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) lives under constant threat from a mad scientist and his evil cats. When Bolt accidentally lands in a shipping box, he winds up in New York City, still under the delusion that he's all-powerful. With the help of a reluctant stray cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) and a feisty hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton), Bolt travels cross-country to find his beloved Penny.

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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what made kids want to see this movie -- was it the story or all of the advertising/marketing?
  • Do you prefer animated movies where the voices are done by celebrities? Why or why not? How is Miley Cyrus uniquely qualified to star in a movie about a celebrity who should be allowed to act normal?

  • What's the difference between reality and fiction? How was Bolt stuck in a fictional life? What does Penny think Bolt is missing by thinking he's actually a super dog? Why is Mittens skeptical about humans?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love animal movies

Themes & Topics

Browse titles with similar subject matter.

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