Bolt opens Friday throughout the Triangle

As far as non-Pixar Disney Animation movies go, Bolt is a cut above the norm. The star of this 3D spectacle is Bolt, a small white shepherd that has lived his whole life as the star of his own action TV show, in which he possesses superpowers and does battle alongside his owner, a young girl named Penny (Miley Cyrus). After Bolt (John Travolta) gets accidentally air-mailed off the studio lot, he embarks on a cross-country journey back to Hollywood, aided by a loner feline (Susie Essman) and an over-caffeinated, TV-addicted hamster (Mark Walton).

Along the way, Bolt discovers his own frailties and the value of friendship. The audience discovers an entertaining hodgepodge of wry gags buttressing a pedestrian plot drawn from a variety of influences. Obvious echoes of The Truman Show reverberate, and there is an anti-Incredibles vibe to the notion that Bolt achieves happiness only after he sheds the illusion of being exceptional and accepts the joys of normalcyfrolicking in yard sprinklers, burying bones and the like. The lightening bolt birthmark emblazoned across Bolt’s midsection proves as phony as his superpowers (a not-so thinly-veiled slap at Harry Potter, perhaps?).

A cleverer plot would delve more into a variation of the query posed in Truman: Is it better to live an extraordinary fantasy or a mundane reality? Alas, there are more pressing concerns to address, like a tidy ending and cross-promotional marketing opportunities. Bolt bears the earmarks of good breeding, but it ends up a mutt that won’t be vying for best in show.