And so we come to the end of our chronological viewing of all Disney feature animated movies (including those that have some animation, like Enchanted and Mary Poppins). (We watched The Princess and the Frog out of order.) Now we’ll have to wait until Thanksgiving—I’m writing this on July 26—for Tangled. In the meantime we will watch all the Pixar features except the Toy Story trilogy, which I’ve already seen and reviewed. After that … who knows? Maybe we’ll take a crack at some other animated features. I’ve missed a few.
Every once in a great while a reviewer will take another look, reassess a movie, and reverse his previous opinion. That happened for a whole lot of critics with Bonnie and Clyde, which initially got terrible reviews, with 2001: A Space Odyssey, which very few people understood on first viewing, and with The Wild Bunch and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I saw this movie new only two years ago and, while I’m not doing an about-face like so many did with those four movies—all of which are now acknowledged as classics—I feel like I should modify my original pan quite a bit. Casting about for a reason why it should strike me differently after only two years, I came up with two reasons, both of which I may have mentioned before in these pages. One, I think I really am getting more tolerant of vertiginous motion unless it’s wildly overdone, as in How to Train Your Dragon. Bolt is a long way from being one of the worst offenders here, though a little too much of it seems like gratuitous overkill. And second, watching a DVD on a HD television is not as disorienting, and at the same time seems more intimate, making it much easier for me to interact and sympathize with the characters.
For whatever reason, I enjoyed this second viewing way more than I did when seeing it on the big theater screen. (Not in 3D.) It still has its weaknesses. It’s funny, but a common weakness of films like this is that the main character isn’t as interesting as the supporting cast. Bolt is a movie-star super-dog who, somehow, has been prevented from knowing that he really has no superpowers. (We see some of how they cleverly accomplish this, and it’s fun, but come on, now …) However, you accept that premise because it’s fun to see him shipped cross-country and emerge in New York without a clue that his super-bark and super-speed and super-eyes don’t work anymore. (But we’ve seen it before, with Buzz Lightyear.) There he meets Mittens the street-wise cat and her retinue of semi-enslaved pigeons. The pigeons are great, and so is Mittens. They set out to cross the country and along the way pick up Rhino, the fearless, obese, hero-worshipping hamster who never loses faith in his hero, Bolt. All these characters are better than Bolt himself.
The look of the film is wonderful, crossing the country, arriving in Hollywood—which looks exactly like Hollywood really looks, and so does Las Vegas—and having adventures in the studios. Bolt’s super-weasel agent is funny, as are the Hollywood pigeons who instantly want to pitch an idea to Bolt (“Aliens!”), just like everyone in Hollywood really does. There’s a lot of heart in this movie. I feel like, with a little more work, it might have been a classic.