Such a commonplace plot might be forgiven if the key players didn’t feel like they were written on the back of a napkin during someone’s lunch hour. Rather than portray Autobots and Decepticons as characters (they, after all, are supposed to be living beings), they are complete caricatures. You have the noble leader robot, the brave little scout robot, the reckless hotshot robot, the impish sneaky evil robot and so on. And of course, the needless silly moralizing about the good in humanity from Autobot leader Optimus Prime (voice of Peter Cullen) makes this character feel more like a cardboard cut-out than anything else.

As someone who played with these toys, watched the cartoon and read the comics as a kid, I know the story in this version of Transformers could have been much more exciting. The writers have a fairly extensive mythology to draw from. Great moral stories can be created and explored in the depiction of battles between good and evil. Unfortunately, with Transformers you get the kind of movie that director Michael Bay is famous for: a spectacular visual extravaganza and little else. If you don’t mind sitting through more than two hours of bad acting, convoluted plot twists and ridiculous dialogue to watch some pretty amazing special effects, this is the summer blockbuster not to be missed.

To be fair, the special effects will stun and amaze. The blending of live action scenes with what is clearly computer animated graphics is seamless. Maybe the computer geeks are the real heroes of the movie after all.

AUDIENCE: 13 and up.

CAUTIONS:

  • Drugs/Alcohol: None.
  • Language/Profanity: A few mild vulgar comments and double entendres.
  • Sex/Nudity: Mikaela wears several skimpy outfits. Pictures of women in swimsuits are tacked up on Sam’s bedroom wall. At one point Sam is locked in his room looking for an artifact for his robot friends. His mother asks him if he was masturbating in there. He’s not, and the scene is played for uncomfortable laughs because he is actually trying to “save the world.” It is implied that Sam has a pornography collection hidden in his room, but it is not shown. Mikaela, with the backing of her robot friends, has Agent Simmons strip down to his underwear to embarrass him for saying some mean things about her father. Sam’s dog pees on one of the robot’s foot. Later another Autobot “leaks fluid” on Agent Simmons in a way that makes it look like he is being peed on.
  • Violence: A great deal of bloodless violence as giant robots spend most of the movie pounding the circuits out of one another. A robot attacks a military base and then another one attacks a group of soldiers fleeing into the desert. A robot attacks and kills secret service men on Air Force One. People are no doubt killed in the wake of the Transformers’ rampage across Los Angeles. Cars are thrown, buildings crushed and more explosions than you can count.
  • Worldview: Most parents and authority figures are portrayed as clueless while the really smart folks are the young people.