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Bumblebee (PG-13)





Bumblebee (PG-13)
Film Reviews by Amy

01/10/19



A girl and her car save the world in Bumblebee, the best of the modern Transformer movies.

On planet Cybertron, Decepticons are winning the civil war, forcing the Autobots to flee. Autobot B-127 — eventually called Bumblebee (briefly voiced by Dylan O'Brien) — is sent by Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) to Earth to establish a refuge for Autobots. B is able reach Earth (circa 1987) and prevent the Decepticons from reporting his location but he loses his vocal processor and his memories. As he shuts down, he protectively transforms into a Volkswagen bug.

Angry teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) works at Hot Dog on a Stick to afford parts to rebuild her late father's car. Still mourning his loss, she is constantly at odds with her mother, Sally (Pamela Adlon), and her try-hard stepfather, Ron (Stephen Schneider), and basically ignores everybody else, including her little brother Otis (Jason Drucker) and her neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.), whose tentative attempts to talk to her go unnoticed.

She finds an old VW at the junkyard and when she gets it home she quickly realizes that the apparent junk car is actually an advanced robotic being, though one who doesn't know who or where he is. Because of his appearance and robotic hum, she calls him Bumblebee, fixing his parts and trying to keep him from discovery by others. Meanwhile, Decepticons follow Bumblebee's radio signal to Earth and search for him with help from the U.S. military. Though Army Ranger Jack Burns (John Cena) thinks helping the Decepticons is a bad move — they call themselves “Decepticons,” he points out — the Army higher-ups believe they will be able to defeat all the Transformers and use their parts to build new tech.

Bumblebee allows you to pretend that there were no other Transformer movies. It exists in a late-1980s vacuum of cassette tapes and unfortunate bangs. It is light, bouncy and sunny; fun but without the dumb, aggressive jokiness of the previous movies. And it has a delightful soundtrack (Wang Chung! The Smiths! Bon Jovi!), says this Ye Olde person.

The movie narrows the Transformer focus primarily to Bumblebee and the two Decepticons with a sprinkling of Optimus Prime. This is the perfect balance of Transformers to people and creates an actual, believable emotional relationship between Bumblebee and Charlie while still allowing room for relationships between Charlie and other humans.

The action also keeps things pleasantly narrow — most scenes involve one or two Transformers fighting one other Transformer, with occasional limited involvement by humans. Again, a nice amount of Transformers to make action scenes engaging and with believable stakes and not just a mass of CGI that you want to fast-forward past. B

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, according to the MPAA. Directed by Travis Knight with a screenplay by Christina Hodson, Bumblebee is an hour and 54 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures.

 






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