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Overall Grade
4.5 stars

(click linked text below to jump to related section of the review)

The Movie Itself
4.5 Stars
HD Video Quality
5 Stars
HD Audio Quality
5 Stars
Supplements
1.5 Stars
High-Def Extras
1.5 Stars
Bottom Line
Overpriced

Bolt - 3D

Street Date:
November 8th, 2011
Reviewed by:
Nate Boss
Review Date: 1
November 18th, 2011
Movie Release Year:
2008
Studio:
Disney/Buena Vista
Length:
96 Minutes
MPAA Rating:
Rated PG
Release Country
United States

Editor's Notes

Portions of this review appear in our coverage of the UK import of 'Bolt - 3D.'

The Movie Itself: Our Reviewer's Take

For Disney's 48th full length animated feature, the first under John Lasseter's watchful eye, the classic studio brought an interesting mix of ideals to the table. This is the first film from the mouse-ears company that genuinely felt like it contained Pixar's trademark mix of brains and heart. Disney creating a tale that's enjoyable for adults as well as children, with plenty for any potential audience. Pixar films never fail to draw an emotional response, by tapping into feelings we all have had at some point, instead of creating stories and characters that we cannot relate to, like, I don't know, 'The Princess and the Frog.'

When Peter reviewed 'Bolt' in 2009, he was 100 percent correct in saying that the film's sole shortcoming is the manner in which the sentimentality of the film feels too cliched and unoriginal. It's true, 'Bolt' is not the perfect film. It does try to be too much, and one distinct portion of its narrative is too predictable in an otherwise unpredictable, fairly original story. Funnily enough, 'Bolt' resonates with me deeper with each viewing, and gets more emotional each time because of this particular shortcoming. I suppose that's enough reason for me to call 'Bolt' a great film: even its flaws draw the desired response from its audience, even if a few of the emotional bits are too forced.

Taking a page from the self-aware cinema of today, 'Bolt' abandons the idea of being a straightforward story of a dog that gets separated from its owner. That by itself wouldn't be enough to be worth watching, as we've had that a number of times before. 'Homeward Bound', anyone? Instead, 'Bolt' gives us a journey of self-discovery, in which the titular character discovers almost every single facet of his life has been a lie of sorts.

Penny's dog Bolt is her best friend, and, many a time, her knight in shining armor, as the pooch repeatedly foils the schemes of the evil Dr. Calico and the amazingly long, ever-present reach of his fiends, with his laser vision, lightning fast speed, and his super bark that displaces anything in its path. For every Calico scheme, there's always Bolt to save the day at the last minute. Man's best friend, indeed, but focus groups are saying the show is too predictable, lacking any real edge or danger. That's right, show. Bolt is the star of a television show named after him, only he doesn't know it, and since he's always been able to save the day, he's never known otherwise. That is, of course, until the first cliffhanger episode. With no idea that Calico (the green-eyed man) and his stooges, and their elaborate plots are fictional, Bolt sets out to save Penny, who he saw kidnapped before the most recent episode wrapped. Instead, he'll find himself separated from the one person who loves him.

Separated by an entire country's width, Bolt must travel from New York back to Hollywood, only it's much further apart than it seems on those placemat maps. Without the use of props and effects, Bolt also has no discernible super powers either. A streetwise cat and an overly enthusiastic hamster/Bolt-fan will help in the journey, but as Bolt slowly discovers the truth, he'll have to ask himself if everything was a lie and Penny's love a ruse.

It's hard to dislike 'Bolt,' the character or the film. A creature of pure love and heartbreaking dedication to his owner, he's such an enthusiastic yet naive hero that it's hard to root against him. He's perfectly realized, with his ignorance of the real world making his cross-country trek his first real adventure, even if he's thwarted super villains en masse in less than an hour. His confusion concerning cats, due to their continued evil presence in the show (and their mockery of his state of deception), may make him less than a knight in shining armor, but in time, even his perceived enemy is seen through a different light, as a friend and accomplice.

'Bolt' mixes the superbly crafted and intense action sequences that create the opening of the film with the more realistic, down to Earth, ride-hopping road trip buddy comedy angles perfectly, and as one by one Bolt's powers fail him, the character becomes more accessible, human even. It's a treat watching the dog try to grasp straws as to why he's seemingly depowered, as the realization that something is amiss is never on his mind. He's too trusting to let that be the case. Yet, as time goes on and the ruse is realized, Bolt still has the ability to be the hero and save the day, even if he can't run faster than a car or shoot beams from his eyes and make objects explode.

It's hard not to love watching Bolt discover the life he had not been afforded in his years in show business, from discovering the realities of the world, to interacting with real animals and people, including learning how to beg, in an adorable montage that ends in the funniest way possible when Mittens tries her hand at the craft she teaches Bolt. It's also tough to not love Rhino, the hamster whose disconnect from reality is even greater than Bolt's, despite (or even because of) being his number one fan. Penny, Bolt's owner, also helps the film maintain its purity, by refusing to let any other dog replace her pet, realizing how the life that Bolt has been given may not be the best for him, making every effort within her ability to find her pup. The refusal to let go and move on, it's something we all have had to face, and it's nicely portrayed here.

Sure, 'Bolt' goes for the gut a few times too many, rather than aiming for the heart, and it can be a bit much. Yeah, the celebrity duo of Miley Cyrus and John Travolta may be awkward and uninspired at times. And sure, one has to wonder exactly how some of those elaborate scenes for the television program were made, considering the dog believes every minute of it, yet there's no way it could all be created on a soundstage. 'Bolt' isn't perfect, and I never said it was. It's perfectly charming, entertaining, and funny, and deeply inspiring, and there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.

The Disc: Vital Stats

Disney's 'Bolt' has to have one of the oddest, most self-defeatist release strategies for any title on Blu-ray, be it 2D or 3D, and after making a tour of nearly every other country, and a stint on the exclusive bandwagon for Sony equipment, it's finally available to buy in stores here in America. We're number thirty seven! We're number... This release is the only one of the wave of four Disney 3D titles coming out on the same day with a Digital Copy, and comes housed in a slightly fatter, blockier case, underneath a lenticular slipcover. The 3D disc is a Region A/B/C BD50, with no pre-menu content. Like the other releases, a 2D disc and DVD are also included.

If you have already picked up any prior version of this release, exclusive or import, then you already know everything there is to know about this entire release. While the French import does feature alternate audio options, there is a striking similarity between the various discs for 'Bolt,' for one obvious reason: they're the bloody same. The numbers beneath discs vary, but from the start, with the language select before any other info is displayed, to the generic menu (which only has two options, mind you, with no chapter selection...what's that about?!), to the presentation qualities through the end of the movie, you could switch around these discs and do blind sample after blind sample, and not find all that much of a difference. Comparing the three copies (don't ask) that I have, the UK, French, and now American releases, aside from the alternate audio options on the French disc, I couldn't tell any difference, whatsoever.

So...like the other titles in this wave, 'Bolt 3D' features a higher MSRP than the standalone 2D version. That much is to be expected. However, due to the Digital Copy, 'Bolt' has a full $49.99 MSRP, as compared to the others at $44.99. This does not help the fact that stores aren't exactly being competitive on this wave of titles. If you've waited...congrats, now you have to pay!

The Video: Sizing Up the Picture

If you've seen any iteration of 'Bolt' in 3D, be it one of the imports, or the exclusive release, you've seen this disc. There is no change, or difference, whatsoever. Any strengths or flaws in the disc, or due to one's equipment and the introduced variance, if you have any other edition...there may be no need to repurchase.

For those of you who have held off:

'Tangled,' 'A Christmas Carol,' 'Step Up 3D,' and now 'Bolt' have proven that Disney hits all the right spots when it comes to their Blu-ray 3D releases. This 1080p full HD 3D release (in the 1.78:1 frame) is an absolute visual feast, and even if it cannot rival the depth of some of the newer animated titles, it most certainly can overpower the numerous flawed 3D releases by not falling to their mistakes.

The use of 3D in the film isn't overly immersive, but the devil is in the details, and 'Bolt' is definitely one of the best looking 3D titles yet. Textures are an absolute marvel, while colors remain powerful and bold, without a single hint of banding or artifacting in sight. Detail levels are through the roof, and there isn't a single inch of the film that looks subpar, not one, as the impressive animation and design rings true throughout the entire 96 minute runtime. The pop-up storybook sequence, which was a fun little gimmick, gets new life in 3D, where it suddenly makes sense (a 2D pop-up book is hardly all that "pop-up"). Bolt and Mittens never look smoothed, their ears constantly having the nice gruff edges, their coats growing deeper with every bit more they get muddied up. The 3D effects themselves aren't exaggerated, with backgrounds going deeper in more subtle ways, with simple background props or light activity coming to life, making the 3D feel more natural and easy to accept.

There are a couple tiny spots of aliasing in hair, albeit brief little moments, as well as a jagged edge on the animal control truck, but that issue doesn't repeat itself anywhere else in the film. Ghosting? Early on, there's a little bit in the Calico video conference, with the hologram monitor and the participant viewing it having a tiny misfire, as well as the text on Penny's polaroid camera and in some of the editing room monitors, but those are fairly brief moments, and the film is free from issue the rest of the way. These minor issues add up to be a collective nothing, an insignificant batch of minor boo-boos that I can't fathom will upset viewers all that much, since they're all so short and minor. 'Bolt' earns its perfect video score, and while it doesn't have the depth that 'Tangled' sports, it makes up for it everywhere else.

The Audio: Rating the Sound

If you have any sleeping children in the house, once you've played the first chapter of 'Bolt,' you won't anymore! Just like it was when first released on the 2D only disc, 'Bolt' and its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a rip roaring, action packed, non-stop thrill ride...for your ears!

While the film adjusts to a more realistic, non-cinematic setting after the faux Bolt show opener, that doesn't mean that it stops being a demo release. Far from it, even. Every channel is given enough localized and ambient effects to keep the soundstage lively and interesting, while bass levels roar, music pops in from every which way, and range hits both the peak highs and powerful lows. Not a single element is overpowered, every line of dialogue, every intended noise can be heard clearly and easily. It earned a perfect score on the 2D release, and it does it again with this import.

The Supplements: Digging Into the Good Stuff

If you read the Vital Stats portion of this review, you know that the 3D disc does not contain a single extra for the film. Instead, the following extras can be accessed on the 2D disc. This release also includes a DVD and a Digital Copy, as well as 200 DMR points.

Every other extra from this section on the domestic Blu-ray is included here, as well. The drop in score reflects the lack of the bonus DVD. The coverage of these extras comes from Peter's 2D review.

  • Featurette: "A New Breed of Directors: A Filmmaker's Journey" (5 minutes) - This is an all-too-brief interview with co-directors Chris Williams and Byron Howard. Pixar chief John Lasseter chimes in with heaps of praise for the neophyte helmers, but this is all too short to really register.
  • Featurette: "Creating the World of Bolt" (7 minutes) - Probably the most interesting of the featurettes, here Williams and Howard discuss the use of painted backgrounds for the film, versus pure CGI. It's a neat technique, and gives 'Bolt' a unique visual look compared to most CGI movies made these days.
  • Featurette: "Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt" (9 minutes) - Miley Cyrus and John Travolta, plus a few of the supporting voice talent, discuss their characters, and we also get a glimpse of them in action in the recording booth.
  • Music Video (HD) - Cyrus and Travolta return with this icky "I Thought I Lost You" tune. There's also a short featurette on the making of the "video," which is really just a bunch of film clips. The whole thing runs mercifully short, at less than four minutes.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 7 minutes) - There are two snipped scenes here, both presented in storyboard form. You can also watch each with or without a director's introduction.
  • Short Film (HD, 5 minutes) - Finally, we have a newly-produced short film, "Super Rhino." It's cute, with Rhino the Hamster having his own little side adventure -- quite funny.

HD Bonus Content: Any Exclusive Goodies in There?

  • Art Gallery (HD) - There are four galleries here, with about six dozen stills in all: "Character Design," "Color Script," "Storyboard Art" and "Visual Development." The graphics are simple if nicely done, and the image quality is quite good.
  • Interactive Game: "Bolt’s Be-Awesome Mission" (HD) - A very '80s arcade-style game, where you have to guide Bolt through three levels of obstacle avoidance as you try to defeat the evil Green-Eyed Man.
  • BD-Live - Finally, 'Bolt' on Blu-ray comes BD-Live-enabled. At press time, no original content is available for download, or has been announced. Watch this space...

Final Thoughts

'Bolt' has seen a number of Blu-ray releases now, from the 2D release, the rerelease that took off the Digital Copy, to the import editions (some titled 'Volt'), and then each and every one all over again, in 3D. This ten thousandth Blu-ray release of 'Bolt' in 3D is no different than the UK import previously reviewed here, save for the fact that the 2D disc is A/B/C coded, meaning the extras are now all playable. That's it.

I'd like to recommend this disc, but at the price point, there's no chance. Some may say MSRP doesn't matter, and the five dollars more this title costs compared to the others in its wave is nothing, but I've seen local stores putting it out for the full $49.99 sticker price. Best Buy, indeed (that was sarcasm...). If you have any other 3D version of this disc, there's no reason to spend the money again, and considering how cheap other versions are, I see no reason to pay the exorbitant price being asked for this long delayed title.

Technical Specs

  • Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital Copy Combo Pack
  • 2- BD50 discs
  • Region A/B/C

Video Resolution/Codec

  • 1080p/MVC

Aspect Ratio(s)

  • 1.78:1

Audio Formats

  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • English Audio Descriptive Service 2.0
  • French Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Polish Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Czech Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Slovakian Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Russian Dolby Digital 5.1
  • Ukranian Dolby Digital 5.1

Subtitles/Captions

  • English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Polish, Czech, Slovakian, Russian, Ukrainian

Supplements

  • “Super Rhino” animated short film
  • “Bolt’s Be-Awesome Mission Game,” in which players help Bolt defeat the green-eyed man
  • “In Session With John Travolta and Miley Cyrus” behind the scenes feature
  • Music video of “I Thought I Lost You” performed by Miley Cyrus and John Travolta
  • “Creating The World of Bolt” featurette about how the filmmakers designed the look of the movie
  • “A New Breed of Directors” filmmakers’ journey
  • Deleted scenes with optional introductions by the directors
  • “Act, Speak! The Voices of Bolt” with the voice cast in session
  • “Bolt Art Gallery” peek at the film’s early concepts

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