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Review: 'Bolt'

Clever casting in Disney's latest animation brings wit and energy to the tale of a self-deluded dog.

Delusional Dog: Bolt’s entire reality is the show and set of his weekly TV series, until he suddenly finds himself in the real world.

Courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc.

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When the unsolicited stuffed toy dog Bolt arrived in the mail from Disney, the message regarding its new movie "Bolt" seemed loud and clear: This is a movie for the kids. The little kids. The littlest kids.

So, where does that leave the parents? This is one of the knottiest questions facing studios that produce expensive animated features these days, nervous that the real ticket-buyers (Mom and Dad) will be as bored in the cinemas as they are with the kids in front of the tube on Saturday. Certainly, Pixar Studios, the genius factory of John Lasseter and Brad Bird and a gaggle of the smartest, cleverest folks in Hollywood, long ago cracked this problem.

And, it turns out, so has "Bolt," in general. For starters, Lasseter is executive producer, meaning that a Pixar standard has been applied to the first fully digital 3-D animated feature from Disney's autonomously run animation division. (That's history enough right there.) This means that parents and their kids can expect a well-told story, centering on a likeable dog whose life as the star of his own TV show comes to a crashing halt. It also means that the humor resists being so clever and snide that you're tempted to cover your ears and that it appeals to all age groups. This, as any Hollywood pro can attest, is one of the hardest tricks to pull off.

It also means that "Bolt" looks fabulous. The movie needs to look as superb as it does, not because it's shot in 3-D (to watch this in standard 2-D would be close to a waste), but because the story (by Dan Fogelman and Chris Williams, with story supervision by Nathan Greno) isn't just about a dog, but about the country. There's something both simple and sweet about "Bolt," yet epic, that's entirely surprising.

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