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Reel Rating: 3 out of 5 Reels
MPAA Rating: PG for some mild action and peril
Released in Theaters: Nov. 21, 2008
Genre: Family, Animated, Action, Comedy
Runtime: 96 minutes
Directed by: Byron Howard
Cast: Miley Cyrus, John Travolta, Susie Essman, Mark Walton

Sex/ Nudity: None.

Violence/Gore: Lots of violence within Bolt and Penny’s TV show, and some of it gets pretty intense, with explosions, gunfights and chase scenes. In one scene, several men are “killed,” but then get up after the scene is over. Still might be disturbing for little ones.

Profanity: A few mild insults, such as “stupid.”

Which Kids Will Like It? Kids 7 and older who like animated stories with talking animals.

Will Parents Like It?  Yes, there’s a good message, but some of the action is too intense for kids younger than 6 or 7. 

Review: I’ve been looking forward to this movie, and while it didn’t measure up to my expectations, it’s still a really cute movie with lots of action and a good message. My 11-year-old daughter loved it more than I did, so that’s probably a good indication that girls that age will like this movie. It’s CG-animated and airing in both regular format and digital 3D. We saw the 3D version, and that’s always fun.

The story centers on a dog named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta). As a puppy, he was discovered in an animal rescue facility by a girl named Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus). The two are soon going on adventures and saving the world in their very own TV show, where Bolt plays a dog with super powers. But what Bolt doesn’t know is that it’s only a TV show. He thinks that what he does all day is real, including his super powers. But when Penny goes home at night and back to the real world, Bolt stays in his trailer on the set.

When Bolt is accidentally shipped from Hollywood to New York City, he has to figure out how to get home. But he soon learns that his super powers aren’t exactly real, and that throws a wrench into the works. Thank goodness he crosses paths with a couple of characters who clue him into the real world: Mittens the cat (Susie Essman) and Rhino the hamster (Mark Walton).

The truth is that Bolt’s never had a real dog-hood, so Mittens teaches him all about the joys of chasing sticks and hanging his head out the window of a moving vehicle. Meanwhile back home, Penny is heartbroken that her beloved Bolt is gone, seemingly for good. And the powers that be at the TV show are pushing her to move on with a new “Bolt.”

It’s a familiar story with age-old lessons about being true to yourself, accepting help from others, and never giving up. The voices of John Travolta and Miley Cyrus are well-known, which helps to bring those characters to life.

The action is also very well-animated, especially with the 3D effects — although some of the intense action during the filming of the TV show included guns, explosions and “fake” deaths. That might be a little too much for kids younger than 6 or 7.

I also think the filmmakers could have done more with the dialogue and “bits.” The staleness of the jokes caused the movie to drag a bit, unlike a movie such as Finding Nemo, where everything is fresh from beginning to end. Rhino the hamster is the most interesting character, but he’s not enough to carry the movie and help it to rise above mediocre. Some funny pigeons also add levity, but unfortunately, the best parts of the movie can be seen in the trailer.

In summary, there aren’t any Wow! moments in this movie, but it’s cute and offers some good lessons for kids.

Jane Boursaw is a family entertainment writer specializing in movies and TV. Visit her at Reel Life With Jane; follow her on Twitter; become a friend on Facebook; email jboursaw@charter.net.