“Bolt” – Susan Granger reviews

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Since he was a tiny puppy, all a little white hound named Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) has ever known is being acclaimed as a ‘superdog’ on television sound stage and ‘saving’ his owner and devoted co-star Penny (voiced by Miley Cyrus) from danger. (Think “Lassie” or, better yet, “Rin Tin Tin.”) So when he’s accidentally shipped off to New York City alone, he’s stunned and confused to discover there’s a real world out there.

Believing that his legendary feats of derring-do are real, not just special effects, Bolt kidnaps a savvy Manhattan street cat, Mittens (voiced by Susie Essman of “Curb Your Enthusiasm”), who cautions, “Nothing that you think is real is real.” They’re then joined by a hyperactive fanboy hamster, Rhino (voiced by Disney story artist Mark Walton), encased in a plastic ball. And the trio travels cross-country to get back to Hollywood to Penny, who ” Bolt fears – could be in mortal danger from diabolical Dr. Calico (voiced by Malcolm McDowell) without him.

As written by Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams and directed by Williams and Byron Howard, the vocal talent is pivotal. John Travolta captures the canine’s tender earnestness and contagious enthusiasm, while Miley Cyrus’s vocals radiate warmth, vulnerability and emotional depth. Susie Essman’s feline gives Bolt a needed reality check and Mark Walton’s Rhino provides comic relief.

Under the animation supervision of Pixar’s John Lasseter, the CGI is both subtle and believable, particularly with 3-D projection. What’s lacking is original thinking. This concept is like “Homeward Bound” and “Incredible Journey;” there are no surprises.

So on the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, “Bolt” is a spunky 7, teaching tiny tots that – with friendship and love – you don’t need superpowers to be a hero.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.