Published at: Nov. 21, 2008, 8:54 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
Man, for the most part this has been an incredibly great week for me film-wise. Frost/Nixon, a pair of films that I’m still under embargo for and now this, Bolt. What is most certainly a return to form for the Disney, their animation department has not only caught up to Pixar but with their own past of telling classic tales. Bolt is easily the best film Disney has made since their silver age resurgence in the late 80’s and early 90’s. It is a hilarious, adorably sweet film that will please the whole family, and I absolutely loved almost every last moment of it.
I’ve already gone over my initial response to the material here after seeing two different presentations of it, so I’ll try not to repeat myself. The long and the short of it is that John Lassiter is working miracles at the Mouse house. Unlike anything else Disney has done on their own since abolishing bigscreen 2D animation for the foreseeable future, this really resonates on a whole different level. Lately, the best Disney animation could muster from parents was a “well that was cute,” and made films that at best could be tolerated in the background while their kid played the thing over and over again in the DVD player. Bolt, on the other hand, is one of those films that parents are likely to stop what they’re doing, sit down on the couch and say “Oh, I’m just gonna stay for this part - it’s my favorite,” before dropping what they’re doing to watch it again cuddled with their kids. It’s not just Pixar level – it is playing at the BEST OF PIXAR level.
While I’m not going to say it is as much of an achievement as Wall-E, I will say it is throwing the ball around in the Incredibles/Ratatouille ballpark.
What works best here is that the film strives more for timelessness than it does filling the movie with silly pop culture references. We’ve finally gotten past that. Instead, they pull in parents with a visual language that borrows from action films and comic books and yet draws its power from the undeniable attraction of “a boy and his dog” story. Almost literally.
Effectively this is The Truman Show if Truman were convinced that he had super powers and then was accidently turned loose in the world. It’s a fairly classic story, a fish out of water/Homeward Bound tale with some slight hints of the Animaniacs thrown in. But despite the fact that you almost know the story by heart even before you see it, it keeps you off balance with its wickedly sharp sense of humor. This movie is hilarious, with an almost constant joke a minute pace that never gets dull and never over uses a single gag.
If the film has one flaw, it is that towards the end of the film there is a montage with a sappy country song that goes on a bit too long. It’s one of those moments in which it seems someone behind the scenes felt there needed to be at least one complete song and the animators had to find gags to fill a whole songs worth of time. And it’s not a particularly great song to begin with. But fortunately once the song ends, the movie resumes with all the power it had before the montage began and you can resume laughing and enjoying it same as if nothing untoward had occurred.
What struck me most about seeing the final film is that each and every scene I had seen already was actually BETTER in context. Not only did the jokes still work, they worked better when there was more to it. The film has an incredible amount of heart that it earns right from the get go and never lets up on. A very sweet, endearing film, Bolt marks a wonderful change in Disney animation, signaling a bright future when we can look eagerly forward to new animated films rather than pining for the old days when they used to get them right. They’re getting them right again. This one comes Highly Recommended - kids or no kids.
Until next time friends, smoke ‘em if ya got ‘em.