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By Christopher Gildemeister


Release Date: November 21, 2008

MPAA rating: PG for some mild action and peril.

Starring: Voices of Miley Cyrus, John Travolta, Susie Essman and Mark Walton

Recommended age: 5+

Overall PTC Traffic Light Rating: green





Fire, explosions, crashes, fantasy violence, mild threatening atmosphere, slapstick violence


“move your butt,” “twisting your giblets”


Mild bullying, very mild scatological and animal humor 


Bolt is a dog who believes he is endowed with incredible superpowers – lightning speed, heat-ray vision and a mighty “superbark” – who defends his owner Penny against the evil genius Dr. Calico, who wants to rule the world. There’s just one problem: none of it is true. In fact, Bolt is an ordinary dog starring on a TV show, and doesn’t realize his mighty feats are all done with special effects. When Bolt is accidentally shipped to New York, he believes Penny is in danger and sets off across the country to save her. Along the way he is befriended by street-smart alley cat Mittens and wacky hamster Rhino, who idolizes Bolt for his TV heroics. Though he learns that his TV “powers” are not real, Bolt discovers that with true friends, anything is possible!


Bolt opens with an incredible action sequence from Bolt’s TV program, showing the “super-powered” dog and Penny evading and destroying armies of the evil Dr. Calico’s henchmen. Soldiers, cars, trains and helicopters are all destroyed in explosions and crashes in a sequence of super-powered action which is easily the equal of similar scenes from movies like The Incredibles. This scene contains some menacing overtones which might be mildly frightening to very young children. However, this “violence” is fantasy-based, and furthermore is revealed to be mere movie-making. Once Bolt goes on the road, he and his friends confront mild perils like being locked up in an animal shelter and hitching rides on (and falling off of) moving vehicles. One sequence involves several human animal pound officers attacking one another with pepper spray and culminates with an explosion, though that scene and most others are slapstick and played for laughs. Toward the end of the movie, Penny and Bolt are trapped in a realistically-rendered building fire, though they are rescued and emerge unscathed.


There is no sex or foul language in the movie, though at one point a character tells another to “move your butt,” and the animal shelter guard asks barking dogs, “What is twisting your giblets?” When first seen, Mittens exhibits mildly bullying behavior, threatening pigeons and ordering them to bring her food; but she gets her comeuppance when Bolt drags her off on his adventures. The movie also derives humor from typical “animal” behavior: in New York, a dog introduces himself to Bolt by sniffing his rear, then saying, “Do you want to smell mine?”; dogs drool on a ball, which then hits a man in the face; and when Mittens takes Bolt inside a house and explains how “normal” pets behave, they are shown standing in front of a toilet. “Out of that?” Bolt exclaims incredulously. 


Bolt‘s premise does require an understanding of the difference between movies (involving acting and special effects) and real life. Very young children who are not familiar with such distinctions may find it difficult to understand some of the plot – but this is not a matter of offensive content, and children will still enjoy the action, humor and camaraderie between Bolt and his friends.  The film also contains some wickedly sharp (though family-friendly) satire intended for adults in the audience, much of it aimed at entertainment industry stereotypes and their obsession with the “18-35 demographic.”


Bolt is a delightful movie experience, combining thrilling, action-packed 3-D adventure with both heartwarming sentiment and laughter. The Parents Television Council is proud to award Bolt the PTC Seal of ApprovalTM. The PTC recommends this movie for viewers over age five.


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