The 2000s have not been very kind to Walt Disney Animation. While there has been the occasional Emperor's New Groove or Lilo and Stitch, the majority of their films from this decade have been rather mediocre (most notably 2005's Chicken Little, which - ironically - remains the studio's highest-grossing film of the 2000s). With that said, I initially had some doubts about Bolt, despite hearing that it would be Disney Animation's first film supervised by Pixar founder John Lasseter. The surprisingly positive reviews posted shortly before the film's release convinced me to buy a ticket. Thankfully, I was forced to eat my words; welcome back, Disney.
The film revolves around Bolt, a white German Shephered who has spent his entire life on the set of a TV show in which he portrays a "superdog". As a result, he believes that the events on film (and his super powers) are real. When he is accidentally shipped from his Hollywood soundstage to New York City, he embarks on a cross-country journey to reunite with his owner and co-star, Penny. Along the way, Bolt teams up with a jaded alley cat named Mittens and a TV-obsessed hamster named Rhino who also happens to be an extreme Bolt fanboy.
First of all, the effects in this movie are unbelievable. Everything in the movie looks so realistic and yet doesn't contradict with the animated cartoon-esquire characters. Also, while Bolt is obviously the star of the movie, the real comedy comes from his unlikely companions. In fact, my favorite character of the bunch is Mittens the cat, voiced excellently by Susie Essman. Very seldom do I hear/see a character and say "I can't imagine anybody doing a better job playing him/her", but Essman really brings a lot to this already memorable character. And though I found him to be pretty irritating at first, some of the best lines in the movie come from Rhino the hamster.
Lastly, in one of the opening scenes we see Bolt as he is in the TV Show to set the understanding of Bolt's world. Seriously, that was made of awesome. The scene was action packed and full of excitement. I would watch the show that Bolt is in. If I had to have a complaint, it would be that it takes some ideas from several other films (such as Homeward Bound, Toy Story, and The Truman Show). That said, it still manages to feel like its own film, and with grace.
With terrific animation, an incredibly heartwarming story, and some of the most endearing characters I've ever seen on film (animated or otherwise), Bolt has not only become my favorite Disney film (Pixar included), but perhaps my absolute favorite movie of all time. It feels strange saying that, especially considering that I didn't even expect to like the film, but I simply can't think of a movie that I've loved more. It's also one of the very few films that manages to bring me to tears every time that I watch it, and when a movie is able to affect me on that kind of level, it automatically becomes a winner.