3D Blu-ray Review: Bolt

3 Blu-ray Combo Pack
Directed by Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Starring John Travolta and Miley Cyrus
Walt Disney Pictures Home Entertainment
Release Date: November 8, 2011

When talking about the current state of Disney’s animation side of film production (and that’s Disney proper, not Pixar), things aren’t as good as they have been. Animated projects are not only seeing less and less respect with critics, but frankly, they don’t seem to be hitting the zeitgeist in general. However, there is the occasional gem.

Hitting theaters in 2008, Byron Howard and Chris WilliamsBolt has become something of a rarity amongst the general collection of modern day Disney animation releases. It’s not only one of the prettiest pieces of animation the studio has to offer, but it is both wonderfully charming performance wise, and is far more touching than anything Disney has seen hit theaters in quite some time.

Bolt features the voice talents of the likes of John Travolta, Miley Cyrus, Susie Essman, and Malcolm McDowell, and follows the story of the star of a TV series and her canine buddy, who are separated one day. Bolt, a star dog, ends up meeting a cat and a hamster, and must not only come to terms with the fact that the powers he has on TV don’t translate to the real world, but he must also try and find the young girl who loves him the most.

Originally set up as American Dog, the team of Byron Howard and Chris Williams stand out here. Taken from Chris Sanders, who originally wrote and was slated to helm the film, Howard and Williams (themselves storied members of various animation projects ranging from The Emperor’s New Groove and Lilo And Stitch) prove themselves to be absolutely fantastic at what they do. Each set piece here is beyond thrilling, and the pair allow the camera to sit and linger in on some genuinely touching moments. There is a great blend of real raw emotion and just genuine thrills here, all handled with such care and grace, making for a film that’s both easy to watch, and one that’s utterly engrossing.

Performance wise, the film is shockingly superb. Supporting turns from the likes of McDowell and Essmen really hold up, with the lead performances from both Cyrus and Travolta being top notch. Travolta’s voice has something youthful and bright eyed to it, making the shock of what comes for his character. Cyrus isn’t on screen a ton, but her voice isn’t as distinct as one would imagine, so detractors of hers shouldn’t shy away from a film like this. She also fits this character really well, something Disney hasn’t done a lot as of late. Instead opting for star power, Disney has gotten away from casting voice actors that seem to fit the role better than the film’s potential box office gross.

And shockingly, this film is far smarter than one would expect. Given all of this genuine emotion evoked here, the film’s youthful sense of idealism really shines here, as does its sense of lost innocence. Bolt must come to terms with a lot of things, and while it’s often fun and games, there is a lot of heart and soul here. Not the brainiest film ever made, for those looking to dig a bit deeper into the heart of their films, there is a ton to be mined here.

Technically speaking, the new Disney 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, which includes the 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Copy, is fantastic. The crispness with which the film looks and moves in HD is astounding, and the soundtrack/score is impeccable with this mix. A really warm looking film, the character details pop here, and the lush color scheme is just what your HD TV ordered.

And then the supplements. This thing is four discs, after all. First off, the release comes with a digital copy as a separate disc, so fans of that extra piece will be happy, and parents buying this for their children will be excited, as there are a collection of on screen games that will allow for the kiddies to have more than their fare share of fun with this release. There are also a collection of making of videos, a music video, and even a video looking at the voice work of this film. Overall, this is yet another dense release from one of the only major studios giving us such things.

As a whole, this isn’t on par with Disney’s truest classics, but for this generation, it is far and away the crème of the crop. Expertly crafted and acted, and beyond touching, Bolt is a must see piece of animation for adults and children alike. Everyone should have this as a part of their respective collections.

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