Transformers

2007, Movie, PG-13, 144 mins

Review

TRANSFORMERS
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The average Hollywood action picture is aimed at 12-year-olds of all ages, but Michael Bay and Steven Spielberg's feature-length come-on for Hasbro's much-loved toy series (and its spin-off cartoons, video games and comics) aims even lower. 8-year-olds of all ages, prepare to storm the multiplex!

Quatar: American Special Forces Rangers are ambushed at base camp by a helicopter that suddenly turns into a giant humanoid robot and, later, into something like a lethal mechanical scorpion. In addition to smashing tanks, stomping soldiers and reducing buildings to rubble, the iron giant has also hacked into the Pentagon's mainframe and is uploading military secrets at a frightening rate. Most of the unit is wiped out, but Sergeants Lennox (Josh Duhamel) and Epps (Tyrese Gibson) lead a small group of survivors to safety and alert Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight) that America has a new and lethal enemy. California: Nerdy teen Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is trying to match the funds his father has put up for his first car — he's even auctioning off artifacts left by his eccentric grandfather, an Arctic explorer (W. Morgan Sheppard), on eBay. Sam's budget eventually extends no further than a battered 1970 Camaro, but there's something strange about the power-striped junker: It can drive itself, it gives Sam hints about wooing the cutest, coolest girl at school, Mikaela (Megan Fox), via vintage pop songs, and, oh yes, it sneaks away in the middle of the night and changes into an enormous robot fans will recognize as Bumblebee (voice of Mark Ryan).

Sam, the Rangers and a pair of computer whizzes — new Pentagon hire Maggie Madsen (Rachael Taylor) and her blustering pal Glen Whitmann (Anthony Anderson, gleefully embodying racial stereotypes that will leave many viewers squirming) — have all stumbled into the front lines of an ancient war between alien man-o-bots, which have come to Earth in search of a mysterious cube called the "allspark" and have been hiding in plain sight by disguising themselves as bitchin' automobiles and other vehicles. If the bad Decepticons find the allspark first, mankind can kiss its ass goodbye. Our only hope is good Autobots like Bumblebee and his pals, but they can't do a thing without sappy Sam: It seems Grandpa Witwicky made a discovery beneath the Antarctic ice that holds the key to humanity's survival, and his secrets are buried in the clutter of Sam's room. Oh, and there's a whackjob named Agent Simmons (John Turturro) who's after Sam on behalf of a top-secret government agency called Sector 7, which know more than they're saying but less than they think about the coming robo-war.

If the words "robots that turn into cars" make your heart leap with sheer childish delight, then TRANSFORMERS is a slice of steel Nirvana. Otherwise it's a strong candidate for the dumbest movie ever made, a lumbering concoction of CGI effects, stuff blowing up, goofy humor (wait until you see the mighty Autobots hiding from Sam's parents like rambunctious dogs who've just broken an expensive knickknack) and still goofier humor: Turturro gives what may be the worst performance of his career as the buffoonish Simmons, who suffers such indignities as being stripped to his "Sector 7" logo underwear and being peed on by an Autobot. And while Bay and screenwriters Robert Orci and Alex Kurtzman tinkered with the Transformers mythology for maximum auto-erotic impact, they carefully tip their hats to old-schoolers. Check out the beat-up Volkswagen Beetle that used-car salesman Bobby Bolivia (Bernie Mac) tries to pawn off on Sam — that's what Bumblebee looked like in car form before he got a Camaro makeover. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh

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