Disney’s latest dog picture a fetching romp
Those Beverly Hills Chihuahuas might have run their course, but a Hollywood White Shepherd efficiently marks his territory in "Bolt," an animated adventure about a canine action hero who's inadvertently shipped from his studio to the East Coast.
Although it will never be mistaken for Pixar pedigree when it reaches theaters next Friday, this genial production is a notable step up for Walt Disney Animation Studios and the first to fall under the creative guidance of Pixar's John Lasseter.
With easy-on-the-ears voice work from John Travolta and Miley Cyrus and easy-on-the-eyes digital 3-D (it's Disney's first animated effort to be conceived and designed from the outset with the format in mind), the film should handily tickle its target audience, especially at the select venues equipped to hand out those 3-D glasses.
Setting the dimensional stage with an extended action sequence that shows off the fresh technology, the story-within-the-story kicks in revealing TV superdog Bolt (Travolta) to be unaware that his villain-chasing studio environment is really all make-believe.
When he's accidentally shipped to New York, Bolt embarks on a cross-country quest, convinced that his person, Penny (Cyrus), remains in the clutches of evil back on that Hollywood soundstage.
Although his superpowers would appear to be on the fritz, he receives assistance from his two traveling companions: Mittens ("Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Susie Essman), a world-weary street cat, and Rhino (Mark Walton), a starstruck, plastic ball-encased hamster.
Serving as the feature debut for both co-directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard, the longtime Disney Animation employees keep things moving along at a pleasant visual clip.
It still would have been nice to see the script, credited to Williams and Dan Fogelman ("Cars"), have more of a comedic punch, with fuller character quirks and complexities to go along with the enhanced visual dimension.
The generic story line also follows an all-too-traveled path, sharing plot points with Disney's recent "101 Dalmatians" direct-to-DVD sequel.
But there's a terrific tenderness in Travolta's performance, while Cyrus and company (also including Malcolm McDowell as the diabolical Dr. Calico and James "Inside the Actors Studio" Lipton stretching — or maybe not — as a pompous director) are similarly effective.
And because they had him in the recording studio, anyway, the producers coaxed Travolta into singing an end-credits duet with Cyrus, the sweetly innocuous "I Thought I Lost You."