Remember the first live-action Transformers movie? The one with Steven Spielberg watching over Michael Bay’s shoulder so there was as much character as action?
Bumblebee is even better than that.
Here’s what you need to know: after a brief prologue showing how Bumblebee found his way to Earth and became Charlie Watson’s (Hailee Steinfeld) Volkswagen Beetle, Bumblebee is a fast-paced, good-humored action flick that is filled with heart and action and a wee bit of pure craziness.
As Charlie, Steinfeld gives an Oscar®-caliber performance in a movie based on kids’ toys from the ‘80s.
Her relationship with her mother (Pamela Adlon) and likely new stepdad (after the death of her father) feels right; her relationship with her kid brother (Jason Drucker) is perhaps too right, and her burgeoning relationship with Memo (Jorge Lendeborg Jr.) never lapses into ‘cutesy.’
John Cena’s Agent Burns calls out the idiocy of the Decepticons’ government allies by pointing out, ‘Decepticons – it’s right there in the name!’
But whatevs, eh?
The action scenes – mostly depicting Bumblebee vs. Dropkick (voiced by Justin Theroux), Shatter (Angela Bassett) and Blitzwing (David Sobolov, The Flash), or the military versus the wrong Transformer – is well designed, and the CGI for the Transformers is more vivid and detailed (and just plain real) than ever before.
At 153 minutes, Bumblebee ain’t short, but it doesn’t feel two-and-a-half hours long (I still had plenty of my quasi-large cold beverage left when the credits began to roll).
Written by Christina Hodson (Unforgettable) and directed by Travis Knight (Kubo and the Two Strings), Bumblebee never sacrifices bombast for genuine emotion, and never feels like the two-and-a-half-hour toy commercial that it is.
There’s enough here to keep adults as thoroughly engaged as kids.
Bumblebee is everything a great popcorn movie should be.
Final Grade: A