Reviewed By William Goss
Posted 07/12/07 21:57:18

"Ay, Robot"
2 stars (Pretty Bad)

Letís cut to the chase: Michael Bayís 'Transformers' is big, dumb, loud, and fun. In just about that order.

No, I didnít walk in anticipating Citizen Kane or Gone With The Wind. Iím a nineteen-year-old dude, for pete's sake, and while I may have missed the boat on the line of toys, I can certainly understand their appeal. I get it: dueling races of giant alien robots doing battle on Earth, under the guise of automobiles and the like, while the fate of mankind hangs in the balance (as it so frequently does). Itís that simple.

Or at least, it should have been. Instead of a Transformers movie, itís a movie Ė an especially corny geek-gets-girl farce interrupted by desert warfare and shoutiní, shootiní soldiers, not to mention drugged-out Chihuahuas, eBay, giant robot slapstick, racial stereotypes, cracked spectacles, dirty Ding Dongs, and other masturbation gags Ė that happens to have Transformers in it. Transformers who happen to urinate on people, and Transformers who happen to get peed on.

Nostalgia would only make up for so much.

On the shorter side of two hours, this robot rumble might have been a blast, but at nearly two-and-a-half hours, director Bay (Bad Boys I & II, The Island) and executive producer Steven Spielberg (War of the Worlds) indulge in the formerís more excessive tendencies: excruciatingly clumsy humor, shameless product placement and seemingly endless exposition. The majority of the movie consists of hackers staring at screens, secretary of defense Jon Voight barking orders, secret agent John Turturro chewing scenery, soldiers led by Josh Duhamel overseas trying to get in touch with the States, and unpopular teen Shia LaBeouf trying to get in touch with hot chick Megan Fox by way of his recently acquired Camaro (which, yes, is a robot, and one that admittedly amuses with its ever-appropriate selection of tunes, and no, I havenít seen Christine).

Considering how thatís the majority of the proceedings, then it only stands to reason that the last half hour alone out of this 144-minute romp is devoted to a stainless steel smackdown. Everything prior makes for more head-shaking and eye-rolling than jaw-dropping and eye-popping, in spite of the numerous transformations that do actually take place early on. With ILM at the wheel, the effects are as phenomenal as expected, although most of the money shots are unsurprisingly saved for the big boom finale. However, all of the excitement seems to be set aside for the climactic melee as well, leaving audiences with plenty of figurative wheel-spinning to tolerate. Until that point, there isnít any established sense of scale or scope, just leaping from location to location with all of the characters eventually gathering together. There seems to be no traffic, no outside world, barely anything outside of the occasional news report and shots of the suburbs. Not until the last half-hour does civilization show up in the form of a nameless city that might as well be Los Angeles Ė as much as it reeks of backlot Ė as the long-anticipated smackdown between Autobots and Decepticons finally gets underway, and even then collateral damage seems oddly avoided, save for a single shot of machines going through an entire office building that too strikingly resembles a recent tragedy to ignore. (And look, Iím the last person to jump to such unfortunate and likely unintended correlations in my entertainment, but there it is.)

That being said, there is little reason to think that fans wonít get their fill of metal-mashing, gear-grinding action, while us non-fans (i.e. the majority of the populace) just slump in our seats, increasingly numb to the assault of sound and fury. For all the perfect pixels in the world, it fails to be either fun or exciting, which is the very least a summer blockbuster should do. Some flicks can get by on great effects and little else, but that doesnít mean a weak story and worse humor canít undermine all the booms and bangs, and Bay goes out of his way to dumb down the worldís most expensive flame war fodder to the point where a barrage of groin hits to man and machine alike doesnít seem entirely out of the question.

Iím as much for mindless summer fun as the next guy, but even I have to draw the line somewhere. Letís be fair, my inner child would devour the last half hour of slam-bang shenanigans with unabashed glee and awe, but even my inner child might not have the patience to stomach two-thirds of relative inaction and realllllly bad jokes to get there.

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