REVIEW: ‘Bumblebee’ is an enjoyable action flick with heart

My goodness, they finally managed to get a “Transformers” movie mostly right.

“Bumblebee” is the fifth movie in the “Transformers” universe. However, it largely stands apart from its Michael Bay-helmed counterparts. The film is actually a prequel and takes place in the 1980s.

Bumblebee is a transformer who, because of a war, is forced to seek refuge on Earth, where he can regroup and form a base for his comrades. Over the course of the film, Bumblebee, who’s damaged from battle, is discovered by Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld), a young woman with an interest in mechanics. After meeting, the two start a friendship

This movie is much stronger than its predecessors. While it’s a movie featuring the same huge robots and fantastical worlds than others in the series, it rises above with a more focused, simplified approach.

At its core, “Bumblebee” is a film about a connection, a relationship. The main focus is on Bumblebee and Charlie, how both characters have been hurt and how they help each other heal.

Action fans need not be worried, though. There’s plenty in that department, too. What Director Travis Knight and company did here was make the action much more visible in comparison to other “Transformers.” The bots are coated in bright colors and the camera remains steady so an audience can see exactly what’s going on. As a result, it’s much more visually pleasing than others in the franchise.

Unfortunately, I can’t say all of it works. The story, whether it gets into the military intrigue or the connection between the lead characters, does traverse through some familiar territory, tripping up on a few cliches. It’s not enough to derail the film, but they do make it stumble once in a while.

Additionally, there’s a subplot revolving around a character named Memo, a neighbor of Charlie, who serves as somewhat of a love interest. There were some points where the subplot felt somewhat unnecessary and shoehorned in.

Outside of a few less than interesting villains, though, the characters are mostly pretty good. Steinfeld is a fine actress and she does solid work here, especially since she’s performing opposite of a CGI robot in many scenes that isn’t really there.

John Cena, who plays a government agent, is also strong here. This has been a big year for the wrestler-turned-actor, who’s proven to have some solid screen presence with his work here and in “Blockers.” Cena brings charm and energy to the screen, and it pays off in the long run.

“Bumblebee” is a fine crowdpleaser, with some good things going for it. It has a lot of heart, and the relationship between Charlie and Bee is compelling. The acting is above average and there are some great moments of action. The film does hit a few snags, keeping it from being great, but it’s still an enjoyable watch. 3.75 out of 5.

Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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