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Bolt (2008)

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Details Release Date: Nov 21, 2008; Rated: PG; Length: 96 Minutes; Genres: Animation, Comedy, Kids and Family; With: Miley Cyrus and John Travolta

Starring: John Travolta, Miley Cyrus
Directed by: Chris Williams and Byron Howard
Release date: November 21

TV stars lead coddled lives. So does Bolt (voiced by Travolta): He's the pampered lead in a hit series about a super-dog. But in a Truman Show-style twist, Bolt has grown up believing he is a super-dog. He doesn't know that his owner, Penny (Cyrus), is an actress, and that the lightning mark on his fur is makeup. But when Bolt is accidentally shipped to Manhattan, he has to road-trip back to L.A. and unravel the lies he's been living — even as his companions, a mangy street cat (Curb Your Enthusiasm's Susie Essman) and a hyperactive fanboy hamster (Disney story artist Mark Walton), alternately challenge and stoke his delusions.

Bolt carries a Disney-logo ID tag, but there's Pixar DNA in this pooch. It was John Lasseter, the Pixar honcho appointed creative chief of all Disney 'toons in 2006, who booted initial director Chris Sanders (Lilo & Stitch) from Bolt. He also junked a story line involving an edgier canine protagonist who brandished guns in his paws and generally acted like a jerk. Out went the snark; in came a lot of heart-tugging moments as Bolt balks in discovering his true, common-cur nature.

Despite all the studio's work on the title character, the breakouts here could be the dopey pigeons Bolt encounters on both coasts. Spouting local patois, they look and move remarkably like real birds — Lasseter pushed the creative team to improve on earlier, more caricatured designs. ''They don't exactly have a big role in the story,'' says codirector Williams. ''But John said, 'Those pigeons are gonna be huge.'''

Originally posted Oct 31, 2008 Published in issue #1019 Nov 07, 2008 Order article reprints