Bumblebee Movie Review
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It’s not hard to be better than Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), and the majority of the effort revolves around not treating your audience like an idiot. Bumblebee re-approached the Transformers franchise with common sense, ingenuity and a level of heart often missed in wild action/sci-fi.
Disaffected teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfield) is trying to find her place in the word after the death of her father. She’s not California cool like the mean girl beach babes that torment her, and her home life is a shambles as her mom and brother move toward with “new dad” Roy. Roy (Lenny Jacobson), by the way, tries super hard to be the nurturing male presence that’s only relatable in your 40s and never when you’re 18.
While trying to restore a Camero she and her dad were working on when he suddenly dies – natural not violent – she uncovers a beat-up Volkswagon Bug, which was the final form B-127 took before his system shut down after the nasty fight with a Decepticon takes his voice synthesizer. Far from home, powerless, and without his memory, B-127 is out of place and on the run. Feeling out of place herself, Charlie bonds with the bright yellow alien and nerd next door Memo (Jorge Lendeborg, Jr) who has the perfect 80s afro. Memo isn’t a genius nor does he have tons of cash to flash around. He’s just a guy with a crush who tags along for the adventure. It’s really refreshing.
The bad guys are details to propel the Bumblebee forward and the fight scenes and CGI is slowed down where we can see how the various mechanical pieces fit together to form VW Bugs and hot rods and military helicopters. It reintroduces the gee-whiz factor of Transformers when we see where the doors sit and the wheels fold and just how quiet a giant robot can be when it wants.
Do you know why you can relate to this film? Because it wasn’t about explosions and CGI fight scenes too fast for the human eye. Kubo and the Two Strings (2018) director Travis Knight paces the story and the action happens around it – you know, like actual, relatable life. Even with the military complex represented by the might of Agent Burns (John Cena) and the science of Agent Powell (John Ortiz) there isn’t the RAWR of chest-pounding and guns blazing.
Look, there are some trite “you don’t understand me” scenes in Bumblebee and some of the teen drama is both heavy-handed and smaltzy and it felt a lot like HAVE. SOME. MEMORIES. but I remember being 18 and this reboot slid into my headcanon nicely. The soundtrack is literally my childhood with lots of The Smiths, Duran Duran, Nu Shooz, and Wang Chung – you can’t help but feel a part of the story. Great music connects us to everything.
Jerks won’t like this film because it’s told from the point of view of an 18-year old girl, and we know how girls give them feels when they aren’t jiggling or fridged. We don’t care what jerks think. With a Spielbergian feel and tempered action that’s a part of (not the reason for) the story, you are entertained (not assaulted) for 113 minutes, which is just the right amount of time to be wowed and thrilled without having your eardrums and retinas blown out.
Bumblebee is rated PG-13 for robot on robot attacks, robot torture, explosions, the impotent might of the military complex against a far-more advanced alien race, high-dives that should be fatal, broken arms, and a car crash sequence that left me more on edge than I should have been.