OK, so lots of times when it comes to "kids' movies," I'm a few months behind. Chalk it up to the fact that I have no children, rarely review animated fare, and am frequently bereft of cash, but that's the ugly truth. (I can almost bet that you, dear reader, saw WALL-E before I did.) But, as most of you know, I'm a HUGE animation fan, and that means DreamWorks, Pixar, Disney, and all those weird little multi-national cartoon movies that arrive with voices by Sarah Michelle Gellar, Luke Wilson or Anjelica Huston. (OK, maybe not all of 'em.)
But it wasn't until a few weeks ago, while in Austin hanging out with two great friends and their two adorable daughters, that I sat down to watch Bolt. And while I could, of course because I'm a genius, spend five whole paragraphs explaining why it's a darn good flick, I choose to focus solely on the opening sequence. Matter of fact, you can see it right here.
Now THAT'S how you get a non-parental semi-grown-man to invest his interest in your animated flick. Yes, I suppose that some of the Bolt gimmick -- that a sheltered dog actor escapes his mega-heroic fantasy-land and still believes he's superheroic in the real world -- borrows from flicks as varied as Toy Story and The Truman Show ... but when you open with an action sequence this tight, colorful, and clever, it builds a lot of good will that can easily last another 75 minutes.
The rest of the film, I'm pleased to note, is old-school Disney-style 'animal adventure' fun. Most of the film is a great little road trip in which a disappointed dog, a sarcastic cat, and a hysterical hamster try to make their way back to Hollywood -- but of course there are several excellent lessons about friendship, loyalty, and responsibility. Best of all, Bolt is funny. So to the animation buffs who are still smarting from Treasure Planet or Atlantis: The Lost Continent, I say say calm down. Between Meet the Robinsons and Bolt, "Disney Animation Studios" is cruising along pretty well right now -- and all of a sudden I'm really looking forward to Rapunzeland The Princess and the Frog.