Everyone’s saying that Bolt, the new animated canine adventure romp, is a return to form for Disney. And everyone is right: it’s funny and it’s charming and the 3-D does actually look three-dimensional, with cool glasses you can take home afterwards if you like.
It’s not as good as The Incredibles, though, not least because its politics are all wrong. One of the things that made the Incredibles so bold, and original and special – in the old-fashioned sense of the word, that is: not as in “disabled” or “mentally-retarded” – is that it offered a rare critique of the feel-good, all-shall-have-prizes, progressive ethos so tirelessly promoted by liberal Hollywood. This is why National Review online quite rightly named it one of its top 20 Conservative movies.
The key scene in The Incredibles is, of course, the one where Dash wants to enter the school running race but can’t because his super-powers would give him an unfair advantage. “Dad says our powers make us special” says Dash. “Everyone is special,” says Mom. “Which means nobody is!” spits Dash.
How did such a profanity slip past the Hollywood censors?
No such profound or original thinking with Bolt though. The plot – if you don’t want to know the results, look away now – revolves round the adventures of a Hollywood-action-superstar dog called Bolt (John Travolta) who, like the hero of The Truman Show,is oblivious of the fact that his whole existence is just one massive cinematic construct. He’s not really a superdog with laser eyes and the ability to destroy whole armies with one bark. He’s an ordinary dog, just like you and me. (If we were dogs, that is).
So really the film’s trajectory is kind of anti-The-Incredibles: not about discovering your inner hero, but rather about discovering your inner crapness and being content with it. So long as your owner (Penny) loves you, well that’s all that matters. The pay off is that Penny and Bolt quit their (presumably highly-well-paid) life of Hollywood superstardom and retire to a home somewhere in the Mid-West to live the normal life that a kid and her dog should lead. With the talking New York cat. The talking hamster. And fat-faced, nonentity single Mom.
OK, fine. But a few questions are surely in order:
Where’s the father?
Why is Mom’s face so fat?
Why are we tacitly invited to applaud Penny’s decision to quit her brilliant Hollywood career in favour of a life of small-town mediocrity?
Do the film-makers not know that there’s a Global Depression on?
Are they not aware that, the way the world economy is going, Penny may never get paid employment ever again?
So what kind of example is Penny’s decision setting to the world’s 13-year olds?
Yeah, maybe some of this liberal subtext will go right over the kids’ heads. But some of it, you can bet, will lurk in their psyches, fermenting and bubbling away, until one day it erupts in a pyroclastic flow of spewing loserdom. And there’s nothing their parents will be able to do. Except, maybe wish they hadn’t taken them to see Bolt. Or at least give them a good talking to, first, about its sinister left-liberal subtext.