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‘Bumblebee’ || Movie review by Nick Murillo

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Photo provided by TFW.


Directed by Travis Knight (The Boxtrolls, Coraline), and starring Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit, Ender’s Game), Bumblebee takes place in the 1980s as a kind of prequel to the earlier Michael Bay iterations of Transformers.  The story follows the Autobot Bumblebee as he seeks refuge from his lost, warring planet of Cybertron.

Decepticons track his whereabouts to coastal California as he escapes military custody to be cared for by a local teenager struggling with her own family issues.  As a smaller film with a more heartwarming tone, the characters and story seem to matter just as much here as the special effects which presents a more balanced movie. 80’s music plays throughout the story from beginning to end, cars and clothes reflect the period, and the absence of cell phones make for a more simple presentation that plays off of a kind of nostalgic joy that the other Transformers movies don’t have.  Those movies have unnecessary amounts of over-sexualization, inappropriate jokes, over-saturated color schemes.  Bumblebee has a more tempered tone that reflects well the culture of America in the 1980s, before commercialization had become a religious tradition as much as it is today.

It’s not a perfect movie or even a great movie.  It borders on the edge of good and not good.  It’s a movie for children in junior high in some ways and elementary kids in others.  In a weird dichotomy, the conversation, character interactions, and story beats are quite simplistic;  so much so that it drags at times.  But the action and violence are NOT for younger audiences.  Instead, a junior high to high school audience might find the action appropriate.  This odd distinction makes for a disconnected film that might otherwise be more appealing.

There are several similarities to the movie E.T. in this movie, in a good way.  It almost seemed like it was used as a template for Bumblebee.  There’s something about the exiled friend from another world that really resonates in storytelling.

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Hailee Steinfeld does a great job acting and the relationship she forms with the transformer Bumblebee is heartening, especially against the backdrop of her relationship with her family or lack thereof.  For what it is, it’s a fun movie with action scenes that are enjoyable and move the plot along at a well-paced clip.

For a nostalgic 80’s era live-action cartoon with a heart, Bumblebee is worth its hour and fifty-four minutes.          

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