The Reel Review

B

This prequel to the Transformers franchise stars Hailee Steinfeld as Charlie, a car-obsessed teenager in a small town near San Francisco in 1987, who discovers that the beat-up, yellow Volkswagen Beetle she just drove home from the junkyard is actually a highly-advanced robot from another world. Bumblebee, as she names him, has fled a war on his home planet of Cybertron, and is being hunted by a couple of Decepticons, evil robots planning to destroy him and Earth.

Unlike the former Transformers films, which are frenetic orgies of action, this is a kindler, gentler, family-friendly tale of friendship between an outsider and a loner still missing her dad who recently died – a throwback to 1982’s E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, set to 80s pop tunes. Director Taylor Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) lets Steinfeld shine, whether she’s wearing that dorky but iconic “Hot Dog on a Stick” uniform, listening to her Smiths cassette tape on her Walkman, or fixing cars. Yes, the story is incredibly cartoonish (as is John Cena’s ridiculously bad portrait of a brutish military leader), but it’s a mindless good time with a nice message about finding one’s place among family.

REEL FACTS

• Hot Dog on a Stick, with its iconic uniforms and lemonade, was a popular fast food chain in the late 80s. It still has 80 locations around the world, most in the U.S.

• Hailee Steinfeld joins John Turturro, John Goodman, Frances McDormand, Steve Buscemi and John Malkovich – all of whom, after appearing in Coen Brothers films, went on to appear in live action Transformers films.

• In the scene where Charlie is dared to jump off the cliff, Bumblebee briefly plays “The Touch” by Stan Bush on his radio. “The Touch” was the main theme song for the 1986 movie and was used in the TV series.

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