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