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BUMBLEBEE review

Every Hero Has a Beginning

All I could think when a new “Transformers” movie was announced for Christmas 2018 was “oh no, here we go again!”  After the massively-successful “Kubo and the Two Strings”, Paramount placed Travis Knight at the helm; and man are they happy they did!  “Bumblebee” follows our titular hero (voiced by Dylan O’Brien) after escaping from Cybertron, being sent to Earth by Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen) as the only hope of the Autobots’ chance of survival.  Once on Earth, he encounters a sergeant (John Cena) and his platoon during a training exercise but manages to escape.  In a small southern Californian town, Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is navigating through her adolescence and dealing with the loss of her father.  She stumbles upon a dirty, rusty VW bug in the nearby scrapyard and she receives it as a gift for her 18th birthday.  After turning him on, his signal is tracked, and two Decepticons head to interrogate him to discover the location of Optimus and the rest of the Autobots.  With Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux) and Shatter (voiced by Angela Bassett) deceiving Sector 7, it’s up to Charlie, Bumblebee, and her friend Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) to stop the Decepticons and save the Earth from annihilation.

In a very crowded movie season, “Bumblebee” is great fun for the whole family and a very refreshing entry in the “Transformers” universe.  It’s no secret that the latest entries (arguably all of them since “Revenge of the Fallen”) have left much to be desired, essentially driving the franchise straight into the ground.  I’m not entirely sure what Paramount’s plans are for future installments, but they certainly are off to a great start with “Bumblebee”!   The film relies on mainly telling a story, resorting to using action spectacles as a story builder rather than the primary focus.  Have no fear, there is still plenty of action and explosions, but they add depth to the film; there aren’t any lens flares though!  In addition to the story is the surprising star of the film, its heart.  “Bumblebee” is full of heart, so much of it comes from Steinfeld who is remarkably charming and conveys an authentic connection to Bumblebee.  Cena balances the drama and comedy, but some of his lines just come off entirely-corny.  This is not due to Cena, but to the often-times predictable and cheesy dialog courtesy of the film’s screenplay.  Unfortunately, the services of John Ortiz are criminally-underused though.

“Bumblebee” also has its fair amount of fan service as well.  While the film doesn’t answer all of the questions, many of them are addressed, such as: how Bumblebee lost his ability to speak, his original form, and how he gets his custom Chevrolet Camaro look as well!  Accompanying the 1987 setting of the film is an excellent soundtrack, featuring the likes of: Tears for Fears, Rick Astley, A-HA, The Smiths, and many more; it’s sure to have you tapping your feet or even singing along!  While also cutting-down on the reliance of action and explosions, “Bumblebee” also benefits from the shortened running time of 114 minutes.  The film flows smoothly and abandons the more-is-more approach of the past films.  Paramount truly has a great achievement on their hands; a film for all ages, led-by a strong, talented Hailee Steinfeld, and is thoroughly entertaining from start to finish.  If superheroes and dramatic offerings don’t excite you, go see “Bumbleebee”!     

 3.5/5   

BUMBLEBEE is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence, in theaters DECEMBER 21ST!

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