Story

Bolt (voiced by John Travolta) has been trained to believe that he is a crime-fighting dog with super powers. In reality he is a canine actor who has lived on a television set since he was a puppy. He thinks that his young owner Penny (Miley Cyrus) lives under constant threat from a mad scientist, the evil green-eyed Dr Calico (Malcolm McDowell), and his equally evil cats. Week after week, Bolt manages to save Penny from kidnap by using what he thinks are super powers.

When network executive Mindy (Karl Wahlgren) orders that the show’s consistently happy endings should be changed, the Director (James Lipton) ends one episode with Dr Calico successfully capturing Penny. Wanting to save her, Bolt escapes from his trailer into the real world. After a comedy of errors, he ends up being trapped in a packing container and accidentally shipped from Los Angeles to New York.

Still believing that he has super powers, Bolt sets off to track down and rescue Penny from the evil Dr Calico. He is assisted in his travels across the country by a stray cat named Mittens (Susie Essman) and a feisty hamster named Rhino (Mark Walton).

Themes

Super powers; crime

Violence

This film contains scenes depicting peril, action adventure, cartoon action violence, threats of violence and intimidation, slapstick violence and recklessness. Examples include the following:

  • During the filming of a scene, Dr Calico threatens Penny’s father, saying that he will ‘Spill his guts one way or another’.
  • As part of a film scene, a car tries to run Penny down, but Bolt charges the car, head-butting it and causing it to flip over and land on its roof. The man inside the car appears unharmed. Bolt then latches onto the rear of the car, hanging the car over a bridge while threatening the driver to get information.
  • During a film scene, Penny is chased by villains riding motor bikes, flying helicopters and driving cars. Penny rides a motorised scooter in a reckless manner through busy traffic and crowded streets. Several bikes, cars and helicopters crash and are destroyed during the chase.
  • During the filming of a scene, we see motorcyclists with electrified steel claws that they use to attack Penny. On several occasions, the men electrocute their own team members or themselves by accident.
  • Bolt wrestles an explosive device from one of the bad guys and attaches it to a helicopter. The helicopter explodes and crashes to the ground.
  • Bolt uses his laser beam eyes to shoot a helicopter out of the sky.
  • During the filming of a scene, Bolt uses his super bark, which has the power of a nuclear explosion. It destroys hundreds of cars, motorbikes and helicopters.
  • Two cats taunt Bolt, telling him, ‘She’s (Penny) a goner, then he will execute her’.
  • Bolt pries steel bars apart with his paws. Bolt uses his paw to knock out a guard with a karate chop to the back of the neck, and uses his laser beam vision to cause a guard’s gun to explode.
  • Mittens the cat threatens a pigeon, using her claws to scare the pigeon and telling him he must hand over all of his food.
  • Bolt grabs Mittens by her throat and pins her against a rubbish bin, demanding that she tell him where Penny is. Later, Bolt holds Mittens by the scruff of her neck and dangles her over a high bridge with cars speeding underneath. Later Bolt uses his paws to pin Mittens to the ground.
  • During several scenes, Bolt keeps Mittens restrained by tying her to the end of a dog lead. He drags Mittens along the ground and Mittens slams headfirst into a mail box and is knocked unconscious for a short time.
  • Bolt cuts his paw and wonders what the red liquid (blood) is.
  • Bolt and Mittens are captured by a dog catcher, who lassoes the pair and throws them into the back of a van. We then see the pair in prison-like cells at the local dog pound.
  • While attempting to break Bolt and Mittens out of the dog pound, Rhino the hamster talks about breaking a guard’s neck. We see Rhino inside a plastic exercise ball that is held in the jaws of a large dog. The ball is slippery with the dog’s saliva and is shot across the room to hit a man in the head, knocking him unconscious. A second guard slips on saliva and falls on his back. While Bolt and his friends are escaping from the dog pound, a gas cylinder on a truck explodes in a ball of fire, and a woman sprays mace into a man’s eyes.
  • During filming, a real fire breaks out and Penny is left tied and dangling from a rope while the building is engulfed in flames. We see Penny coughing and blackened with soot, and people running from a burning collapsing building. Rhino tries to go into the burning building saying, ‘It is a good day to die’, but he is picked up by a fire fighter and kept safe. Bolt charges into the burning building with props exploding all around and searches for Penny, who is now pinned under a beam of wood with the fire fast approaching. Bolt drags Penny through the flames but Penny slumps to the ground and tells him to go. Bolt is unwilling to leave Penny’s side and lies down next to her. Bolt’s bark is heard by fire fighters who rescue Penny from the flames. We do not see the rescue, but see Penny lying on a stretcher in an ambulance with Bolt lying next to her.
  • During the filming of a scene, we see Penny lying in a hospital bed with her face wrapped in bandages and a doctor telling her that her face had to be completely reconstructed. We see Dr Calico standing next to the bed holding a menacing looking syringe. Before Dr Calico can take any action with the syringe, a hole is blown through the ceiling by an alien spaceship and Penny and Bolt are sucked up into the space ship.

Content that may disturb children

Under 5

In addition to the violent scenes mentioned above, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • Dr Calico is a tall menacing character. One of his eyes is coloured green with a cat-like pupil, and he usually has a cat sitting on top of each of his shoulders. Dr Calico continually tries to harm Penny.
  • Dr Calico’s henchmen ride motor bikes, wear black clothing and black helmets, and have long sharp cat-like claws on the ends of their fingers. The claws send bolts of electricity flying out the end.
  • There are scenes where Bolt and Mittens are placed in danger.
  • Bolt is distressed after having seen Penny pat another dog that she thinks is Bolt, telling the dog how much she has missed him.

From 5-8

Children in this age group may also be disturbed by the scenes mentioned above.

Over 8

Younger children in this age group may also be scared or disturbed by some of the images and scenes described above. Children closer to the age of ten should be better able to cope.

Sexual references

None of concern

Alcohol, drugs and other substances

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Product placement

None of concern

Coarse language

This movie contains some mild coarse language and put-downs.

Ideas to discuss with your children

Bolt is a fast-paced animated adventure film that is clever, witty and entertaining for both children and adults. The film does contain some scenes of animals and children in danger, which may distress younger viewers.

The main messages from this movie are:

  • We do not have to have super powers in order to do heroic deeds.
  • If you do right, no matter the obstacles, the impossible can become the possible.
  • Never abandon a friend or someone you love in time of need.

Values in this movie that you might wish to reinforce with your children include loyalty, perseverance and selflessness. No matter how difficult things became, Bolt never gives up searching for Penny, and he risks his life to protect her.

This movie could also give you the opportunity to discuss with your children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as Penny’s dilemma. She is torn between her duty to the film studio and her desire to take Bolt home and treat him like a regular dog. Parents may wish to discuss the consequences of each choice – who would be affected, and how.