Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Bolt, the super non-super dog

The huge blockbuster movies of this year are full of big action. They're about individual people who rise up from the crowd and be a hero for the helpless and oppressed. Think Iron Man, The Dark Knight, and the other super-movies that have been raking in the big bucks these recent years: movie-goers love to be transported out of the mundane and experience moments of triumph over injustice even if it is only in fantasy.

Disney's Bolt completely reverses this notion. Super dog, Bolt, has been psychologically screwed with by the producers of his TV action series to believe he has super powers. It makes for stronger realism and heightened drama, his demented producer thinks. Living all his life on a movie set (a super-canine version of The Truman Show) he suddenly encounters the real world when he becomes an accidental stowaway in a packing crate bound for NYC. It takes a while, but what he believes about himself slowly crumbles away and he has to cope, not with new and unexpected super-powers but with new and unexpected normalcy.

This is a parable that we can expect to recur for us many times over, going by the state of our current world economy. Many of us may once have been high-fliers, performing tasks that seemed important, critical even, to saving if not the world, then our families or even our self-esteem. But with mass unemployment as  a Damocles' Sword over our heads many of us are going to have to adapt to a life that isn't defined by our jobs any more. Finding and living with a new identity, that's a tough one.

What keeps Bolt going on his road trip back West to Hollywood and home are his ability to make use of the strengths he already has as an ordinary dog -- courage, smarts, and doggy-eyes. What drives him forward and gives him a purpose and a plan is the one belief that cannot be shaken: the love of his co-star, Penny, for whom he will do anything. What gets him through hard times -- and occasionally into hard times -- are his unlikely friends, Mittens the cat who keeps him grounded on reality, and Rhino the Hamster who's loyalty and indomitable "I can!" spirit makes magic happen.

May we who face dark days ahead likewise find our own way home.

Oh yeah, and I watched Bolt in 3D too! Unglam glasses but the illusion of depth on screen made Bolt all that much more pat-able.

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