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Bolt

A tail-wagger of an animated family comedy

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For kiddie-comedy about lost pets, Bolt has a fairly high concept; it's essentially The Truman Show, but with a dog. Bolt is the eponymous star of a TV action series in which he perpetually saves his person Penny from danger; to keep his performance believable, the producers lock Bolt up in a fantasy set. But then he gets lost, and the poor befuddled creature (who doesn't actually have a Super Bark) must make the arduous trek from NYC to L.A. to reunite with Penny. I enjoyed Bolt's inversion of the genre's typical character trajectory: Instead of the mutt who becomes a superhero, Bolt the Wonder Canine learns how to be a regular doggie. Toward that end, Bolt gets some tough-love help from Mittens, a scrappy alley cat (voiced by Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie Essman). John Travolta taps his reserve of "wounded youth" (see also Grease, Saturday Night Fever) to voice a sympathetic Bolt, and Wonder Teen Miley Cyrus lends her pipes to Penny. Chris Williams and Byron Howard's beautifully animated film is a charming tale, with plenty of physical humor for the kids and some well-earned sentimentality sure to satisfy dog and cat people alike. If you're in the frequently derided Team Hamster, rejoice: The pudgy, TV-obsessed, scene-stealing hamster Rhino (voice of Mark Walton), trapped in his transparent plastic ball, comes close to rolling away with the film.

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