While Michael Bay’s bombastic quartet of Transformers movies was aimed at fans far too old to be playing with the toys on which they were based, this reboot of the franchise is the first since the original 1984 animated film to do what a Transformers movie is supposed to do – entertain kids of all ages, and grown-ups too.
Set in 1987 – if the lack of technology doesn’t tip you off to the era, the rather overpowering 80s soundtrack will – the movie focuses on teenage Charlie (Steinfeld). She misses her late father and isn’t particularly fond of her mother or stepdad, so spends most of her time restoring an old car she and her dad were working on before he died.
It’s not going too well, so when she spots a rundown yellow VW Beetle at the local junkyard she takes it home to restore it – only to discover it is actually a transforming robot that can only talk using snippets of songs from its car radio. Little does Charlie know that Bumblebee (her name for the Bug) is hiding out on Earth following a devastating battle on his home planet of Cybertron, hoping his friendly Autobot pals (including Optimus Prime) will find him before evil Decepticon robots and the US Army (led by John Cena’s meathead Agent Burns) do.
While the kid befriends alien from outer space plot borrows heavily from movies like The Iron Giant and ET: The Extra Terrestrial, this has its own charms thanks to a fun script and a really likeable central performance from Steinfeld. Her relationships with the big metal transformer (with an amazingly expressive face), and with awkward neighbour Memo (Lendeborg Jr) give the movie the heart that Bay’s films were always lacking and there is a delicious sense of humour here that is just what you need in a film about robots that can change into cars.
There’s none of the epic, city-destroying mayhem of the previous Transformer movies – and that’s a good thing – instead, the chaos Bumblebee and his fellow robots create is more personal (especially in a daftly enjoyable scene when Bumblebee goes inside Charlie’s house and accidentally trashes it) and more believable, too.
It’s fast-paced enough for fans of the earlier movies to be placated, but in the end this warm, hilarious, effects-packed adventure is perfect for kids who spends hours transforming their plastic toys from automobiles to robots and can recite all the names of the autobots by heart – and the parents who a couple of decades ago could do the exact same thing themselves.
Is Bumblebee suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
This does have some action scenes – including the initial attack on Cybertron – that may be too explicit for very young (under age 7) children.
There are scenes in which Charlie and Bumblebee are in danger which may upset sensitive children.
There are scenes in which humans are killed by Decepticons, but they dissolve into a puddle of liquid so it does not look frightening.
Parents should note that the film was originally classified a 12A by the BBFC but was then re-classified a PG after some minor cuts.
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