Combustible Celluloid
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With: Hailee Steinfeld, Dylan O'Brien (voice), Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Cena, Justin Theroux (voice), Angela Bassett (voice), Pamela Adlon, John Ortiz, Grey Griffin (voice), Peter Cullen (voice)
Written by: Christina Hodson
Directed by: Travis Knight
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence
Running Time: 113
Date: 12/21/2018

Bumblebee (2018)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Reformed Transformer

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

After a series of increasingly stupid, oversized Transformers movies, someone had the wise idea to scale back and make a smaller movie about only one robot, and about some human beings for a change. Bumblebee begins with a lot of noise and a huge robot battle before the title character is dispatched to earth to set up a base. Once there, he tangles with some decepticons and loses both his speech and his memory. Meanwhile, teen Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) is mourning her late father and continues working on a classic Corvette that they were building together. She goes to a scrapyard and discovers a weird, yellow VW Beetle, which turns out to be our robot. Charlie and her nerdy, adoring neighbor Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) have lots of fun with their new friend until it's a race against time to stop the decepticons from alerting their armies. Set in 1987, this breezy, bright, summery movie is steeped in 1980s culture, feeling a lot like E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Short Circuit, and other movie adventures of the day (a reminder that Steven Spielberg is an executive producer on this one), and featuring an array of pop tunes (Charlie loves The Smiths); it even has the theme from the 1986 animated Transformers movie. John Cena co-stars as a relentless military man, and John Ortiz is the guy who wants to talk to the robots rather than shooting them. Travis Knight, of the animation studio Laika, directs.

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