A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
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.
- Parents say
- Kids say
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?
- In theaters: November 21, 2008
- On DVD or streaming: March 24, 2009
- Cast: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman
- Directors: Byron Howard, Chris Williams
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Adventures
- Run time: 96 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some mild action and peril
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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