'Transformers' a satisfying summer blockbuster

The audience was pumped. Young, old, teens, guys, girls, adults, no matter. Oh, yeah. You could feel the building expectations as the trailers ran. The word was out: "Transformers" was one rockin' summer blockbuster that was not going to disappoint. And it doesn't. It delivers in spades and then some.

The wonder of the film is that you don't have to arrive with a truck load of childhood memories of playing with Hasbro's Decepticons (bad 'bots) and Autobots (good 'bots). And if you missed the comic book-TV spinoffs, not to worry. This nifty film stands on its own. A tangential point: usually toys are derivative, offered up after the movie breaks, folded into a happy meal or handed out with a whopper and fries. Not in this case.

Okay, ever so briefly, the plot works something like this: the Decepticons and Autobots, arriving from a dying planet, are in search of the Allspark, which is the source of all power and energy. Autobots will never kill a human. Decepticons will destroy planet earth to advance themselves. There's an enormous battle in the works between these morphing behemoths.

Of course, there's Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), 17 years old, feeling decidedly uncool, self-conscious to a fault, and desperate for his first car and first girlfriend. Unawares, Sam talks his dad into buying him a vintage Camaro which is actually an Autobot (Bumblebee) who is the "protect the kid" 'bot.

As it turns out, Sam, newly mobile, meets Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox), uber-high school hottie, the girl of his dreams, who lives in a universe he has only observed from afar. Serendipitously, said fox ends up riding shotgun in his new set of wheels. New in this case means old and a bit trashed, but still... it does have a racing stripe.

This movie is stuffed fuller than a ball park frank with riveting battle scenes, lots of 'bot morphing (it is way-cool when Bumblebee transforms into a giant 'bot, then back into Sam's car), wild rides featuring 'bots as your GMC Topkick, Hummer H2, and the Pontiac Solstice. Bumblebee, in one wonderful scene, feeling a bit shabby, upgrades to the new GMC Camaro, not due out until 2008. It's a funny moment, but not the only one.

Actually, "Transformers" is a comedy (with a soundtrack of crunching metal), the underlying romance between Sam and Mikaela is over the top as are many of the well-acted and sharp performances by John Voight as Secretary of Defense, John Turturro as a fed on steroids, and not to forget the spot-on roles of Sam's quintessentially clueless parents, portrayed by Kevin Dunn and Julie White. It's all just too good.

If you're young during the summer of 2007, well count your blessings. There are snowbirds walking around who would've given anything to have walked into a movie theater around the 4th of July, the asphalt roads going a bit spongy from the heat, and grabbed a seat to watch anything even closely resembling this film.

But then kids today are the techno-generation, busy trying to figure out how to wrangle a state-of-the-art iPhone/iPod/HD TV out of their parents while texting messages to their equally techie friends who are way-connected and who can, like, totally relate to anything that looks like a set of hot wheels and can become this anthropomorphic 'bot that learned to speak English on the World Wide Web. This is so cool.

And let's be honest. Kids (and adults, to be sure) develop emotional connections to machines. You might forget your little brother at the mall, but not your cell. Never happen. Well, maybe not your sibling, but you get the idea.

So, this is all to say that Michael Bay nailed it. He made a top drawer summer blockbuster that will have its target audience abuzz with excitement and calling their friends on ubiquitous phones, wanting to get the word out: dude, "Transformers" rocks.

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