Bumblebee Review

The “Transformers” team finally figured it out – bigger doesn’t mean better. After five movies, the metal CGI juggernaut of a film franchise decided to go small and tell a more intimate story. And while the box office receipts for “Bumblebee” didn’t outdo “Transformers: The Last Knight,” they nearly matched it – and for a significantly cheaper price tag.

A prequel featuring the most loveable Transformer (and that’s not even close, by the way), “Bumblebee” restores a sense of grounding to these movies, taking the time to develop the character Bumblebee as a hero, and create a human companion in Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) who matters to the story too. The effort here by writer Christina Hodson (“Unforgettable”) and director Travis Knight (“Kubo and the Two Strings”) doesn’t restore Paramount’s moneymaker to can’t-miss blockbuster status, but it gives back the dignity that director/producer Michael Bay so callously stripped away.

Set in 1987 as an homage of sorts to the decade’s role in “Transformers” history, the film opens with Bumblebee fleeing a war-torn Cybertron to take refuge on Earth at the orders of Optimus Prime. Tracked there by a ruthless Decepticon and greeted by special forces (led by John Cena), he disappears, disguised as a VW Beetle, and is eventually discovered by Charlie, a California beach town teen who’s become a loner since her father died.

“Bumblebee” uses its time-specific setting to O.D. on ‘80s hits for its soundtrack and cling to the decade’s movie stereotypes in a longingly nostalgic sort of way. Charlie has a kid brother (Jason Drucker), a mom who works hard but doesn’t understand her (Pamela Adlon) who also has a boyfriend (Stephen Schneider), a crush on an unattainable popular boy (Ricardo Hoyos) and a dorky boy next door who she doesn’t notice (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.). Check, check, check, check and check.

But the relationship between Charlie and Bumblebee matters most. Although established in a very familiar way (think “E.T” or “The Iron Giant”), this dynamic worksif for no other reason than it’s refreshing to watch a “Transformers” film that thinks of its robots as actual characters. Rather than bigger action, it’s action with bigger consequences; meaningless CGI tornadoes have been replaced with thoughtful action sequences defined by character beats.

Without overpraising “Bumblebee” for doing basic storytelling better than most of its predecessors, this is a “Transformers” film one can happily sit through that restores some faith in what the franchise could be. It’s a pleasant offering and actually suitable for older children to boot. It definitely surprises as more than just a last-ditch effort to keep the “Transformers” flame alive.

3/5 Stars

Directed by Travis Knight
Written by Christina Hodson
Starring: Hailee Steinfeld, Pamela Adlon, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr.


You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment