Making the Grades
It seems all it takes is a little sprinkling pixie (make that Pixar-style) dust to recreate the kind of movie magic that once oozed from the Disney animation department. This film's executive producer, John Lasseter, is one of the geniuses behind the Pixar hits Cars, Toy Story and Monsters, Inc. Now he's channeled his creative talents into the story of a dog named Bolt who has a difficult time distinguishing between reality and fiction.
Bolt (voice by John Travolta) lives inside a trailer plastered with pictures of him and his "person" Penny (voice by Miley Cyrus). Unbeknownst to him, the mobile home is parked on the set of a TV show. His daily attempts to keep Penny safe from the clutches of Dr. Calico (voice by Malcolm McDowell) are only staged so they can be secretly filmed for a television action series. His superpowers, including the ability to jump long distances, stop speeding cars with his head and avoid a barrage of bullets, are really the result of some technical maneuvering on behalf of the unseen production crew. But for all Bolt knows, he is a superhero. (For all young audience members may know, Bolt is also in real mortal danger during the action-packed, explosive opening scenes of this story.)
However, when Bolt escapes his artificial surroundings and is mistakenly shipped across the country, he is forced to face the rude realization that life hurts. Determined to get back to his "person", Bolt first has to come to the truth about his identity. That happens partly because of an alley cat named Mittens (voice by Susie Essman) he attempts to coerce into helping him find his way home. Somewhere during their continental voyage, he and Mittens also meet Rhino (voice by Mark Walton), a corpulent hamster who has spent way too much time caged up in front of the TV. Making his way around the world inside a plastic ball, the rotund rodent joins the expedition fully believing he is in the presence of a superhero.
Offering an engaging mix of adult and child-friendly humor, this cross-country road trip, though relatively predictable, introduces a whole new cast of enjoyably quirky characters. For parents (or teachers), Bolt also presents an insightful comparison between the fantasy realm of television and the truth of the real world that even grade school kids are likely to understand.
Moments of peril (including the depiction of a child and animal caught in a burning building), along with scenes of explosions, car chases, rocket-launching helicopters and other brief, violent interactions may give parents some reason to pause before taking their youngsters to see this film. Yet as Bolt sheds his television identity for that of a regular mutt, the transformation from superhero to real hero makes great family entertainment for almost all ages of dog lovers.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Bolt.
What does Bolt learn about being a hero? Does he have to have superpowers to help others?
Differentiating between the fantasy of television and the reality of life outside of the studio is a challenge for Bolt. How does he react when he learns the truth about his abilities? What new qualities does he discover in himself? What does Rhino never come to understand about Bolt?
What examples of friendship are found in this story?