Thursday 23 May 2019

Bumblebee review: 'Travis Knight's perky Transformers prequel is one of the best family films I've seen all year'

4 stars

Bumblebee (12A, 114mins)
Bumblebee (12A, 114mins)
Paul Whitington

Paul Whitington

Sometimes, in nightmares, I imagine that I am stuck in a never-ending screening of a Transformers film. Of all the summer blockbusters that afflicted us over the last decade or so, these were the most tiresome: loud, bombastic, pointless Cgi festivals witlessly presided over by that master of cinematic finesse, Michael Bay.

There were five of them, they all ran for over two and a half hours, they made lots of money, and none were any good. But, apparently, it needn't have been that way because this perky prequel is one of the best family films I've seen all year.

As the planet Cybertron is being overrun by Decepticons (bad robots!), Optimus Prime, barrel-voiced leader of the Autobots (the good ones), orders his most trusted lieutenant, B-127, to travel to Earth to scout the place out: in time, his comrades will follow.

But when the machine arrives on our planet he's treated to the usual friendly human welcome, is shot and half destroyed and retreats into a forest to recover. As those of you with small boys will know, Autobots can transform, and B-127 takes on the unassuming shape of a battered Volkswagen Beetle in the hopes of going unrecognised.

But when a clever teenage girl called Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) acquires the car and finds out what it really is, she christens him 'Bumblebee' and watches in awe as he uses snippets from the radio to communicate with her. But this touching bonding session is rudely interrupted by the arrival of two Decepticon assassins.

Beautifully directed by Travis Knight (Kubo And The Two Strings) with a light, almost Spielbergian touch, Bumblebee is a delight from start to finish.

John Cena is great fun as an aggrieved army man, Steinfeld brings warmth, humanity and a fine comedic touch to her performance, and the Cgi is used sparingly, but very well. Sometimes Mr Bay, less is more.

(12A, 114mins - Bumblebee releases on December 26)

Also releasing this week: 

Mary Poppins Returns review: 'Producers so fearful of tarnishing Ms Poppins' good name, they've created something shiny and dead'

Films coming soon...

The Favourite (Olivia Colman, Emma Stone, Rachel Weisz, Mark Gattis, Nicholas Hoult, Joe Alwyn);

An Impossible Love (Virginie Efira, Neils Schneider, Estelle Lescure, Coralie Russier, Jehnny Beth)

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