DI­REC­TOR: Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings) STAR­RING: Hailee Ste­in­feld, John Cena and the voices of An­gela Bas­sett, Justin Th­er­oux. RAT­ING:

WHOA! How’s this for a Christ­mas present?

If you’re a Trans­form­ers fan who has suf­fered through the in­de­struc­tibly inane movie se­ries - risk­ing last­ing dam­age to your pow­ers of au­dio-vis­ual per­cep­tion - then Bum­ble­bee will set ev­ery­thing right.

This is not a joke. Some­how, against all odds, this 1980s-set ori­gin story for long­time Trans­form­ers MVP Bum­ble­bee is a pure, play­ful and gen­uinely pleas­ing retro de­light.

It has taken the fran­chise more than a decade to get its act to­gether, but fi­nally we get to ex­pe­ri­ence what a Trans­form­ers movie should have been all along.

The story kicks off with a dy­namic pro­logue out­lin­ing how a plucky Au­to­bot named B-127 made it all the way from the planet Cy­bertron to a junk­yard on Earth, dis­guised as a yel­low Volk­swa­gen Bee­tle.

B-127 is not in the best of shape, it must be said, los­ing his abil­ity to speak when his voice­box gen­er­a­tor is de­stroyed shortly af­ter reach­ing Earth.

Rechris­tened Bum­ble­bee by a kindly tomboy teen me­chanic named Char­lie (Hailee Ste­in­feld), our hero is just be­gin­ning to en­joy his new life when some De­cep­ti­con en­e­mies from his past de­cide to pay a visit.

Drop­kick (voiced by Justin Th­er­oux) and Shat­ter (An­gela Bas­sett) are the des­ig­nated vil­lains of the movie, and wreak just the right amount of havoc when called upon to do so.

That much of the may­hem is con­fined to just these two char­ac­ters is a ma­jor point of dif­fer­ence (and a wel­come re­lief) for a Trans­form­ers movie, which in the past have over­cooked a sim­ple recipe by fill­ing the screen with CGI good­ies and bad­dies that are al­most im­pos­si­ble to tell apart.

If it is com­edy you are af­ter - again, never a strong suit of the Trans­form­ers fran­chise - then a well-used John Cena as the fed­eral agent he­man Jack Burns has you cov­ered.

Re­mark­ably, as the movie takes shape, Bum­ble­bee’s ini­tial in­abil­ity to con­verse does not im­pact upon his abil­ity to emote.

Cour­tesy of some sen­si­tive and sub­tle di­rec­tion from the film­mak­ers - which tellingly do not in­clude the con­tro­ver­sial Trans­form­ers head hon­cho Michael Bay among their num­ber - this ul­tra-like­able Au­to­bot can still con­vey a ten­der­ness, a fragility and a re­silience that is ir­re­sistibly touch­ing.


Hailee Ste­in­feld in Bum­ble­bee

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