Australian Council on Children and the Media

Bolt

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Not recommended for children under 5, PG to 10 due to violence and disturbing scenes.

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for Bolt
  • a review of Bolt completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 1 January 2009.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: Bolt
Classification: G
Consumer advice lines: Some scary scenes
Length 92 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Bolt (voice of John Travolta) has been trained to believe that he is a crime-fighting dog with super powers, but is actually 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 (voice of Malcolm McDowell) and his equally evil cats. Week after week, Bolt manages to save Penny from kidnap by using what he thinks are real super powers.

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

Still believing that he has actual 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).

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Super powers; crime

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

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

  • 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. We then see Bolt with his jaw latched onto the rear of the car, hanging the car over a bridge while Bolt threatens the driver to get information.
  • During a film scene Penny is chased by villains riding motor bikes, flying helicopters and driving cars which fire at her. Penny rides a motorised scooter in a reckless manner through busy traffic and crowded streets. A number of bikes, cars and helicopters crash and are destroyed during the chase. During the filming of a scene, we see motorcyclists with electrified steel claws which they use to attack Penny. On several occasions the men electrocuted 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 the destroy 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 bare hands. 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 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 until Mittens, who appears scared offers to tell Bolt where Penny is. 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 co. 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.  

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

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

  • Young children may find the image of Dr. Calico scary. He 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 continuously tries to harm Penny. 
  • Dr. Calico’s henchmen, who 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.
  • Young children may be distressed by some scenes where Bolt and Mittens are placed in danger.
  • Bolt is distressed after having seen Penny pat another dog that she thinks is Bolt, and telling the dog how much she had missed him

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

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

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

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

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

None

Product placement

None of concern

Sexual references

None of concern

Nudity and sexual activity

None of concern

Use of substances

None of concern

Coarse language

The film contains some occasional low level coarse language. Examples include:

  • beat it stupid cat
  • new suckers
  • you are vile vermin
  • lunatic
  • you moron
  • Sweet Sister Francis.

In a nutshell

Bolt is a fast paced animated adventure film that is clever, witty and entertaining for both children and adults. However the film does contain some scenes of animals and children in danger that 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 parents may wish to reinforce with their children include loyalty, perseverance and selflessness. No matter how difficult things became, Bolt never gives up searching for Penny and risks his life to protect her.    

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as

  • Penny’s personal dilemma in being 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.

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