‘Bumblebee’ Movie Review – The ‘Transformers’ Film We Didn’t Realize We Needed

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Bumblebee Movie Review

Hailee Steinfeld in ‘Bumblebee,’ from Paramount Pictures. (Photo Credit: Jaimie Trueblood © 2018 Paramount Pictures)

“Look, people can be terrible about things they don’t understand. If they find you, they’ll probably lock you up in a lab somewhere and it will be bad. Trust me, the only person you can show yourself around is me, okay?” says Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) to Bumblebee (voiced by Dylan O’Brien) after discovering he’s not just some old beat-up VW in the Transformers spinoff, Bumblebee.

The movie starts with an epic battle on the planet Cybertron, home of the Transformers. The evil Decepticons are winning and the Autobots must evacuate if they hope to keep their race alive. The leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen), commands his loyal battlebot, B-127, to travel to a well-hidden planet called Earth and get it ready for the Autobots to set up a new base there.

B-127 crash lands in Northern California in the year 1987. Unfortunately, the newcomer to planet Earth not only has the bad luck of crashing in on an army training exercise but also has a Decepticon warrior hot on his heels. They fight and B-127 barely manages to win, losing the ability to talk when his electric vocal chords are severed and he’s badly damaged. About to lose his core memory, B-127 scans the area and finds a VW Bug which he can mimic.


Enter Charlie, a teenager about to turn 18. She feels like an outcast in her own family and is still grieving the untimely death of her father. Charlie’s desperate to have her own car and while out collecting parts at her uncle’s car repair shop, she comes across a broken down, yellow VW Bug.

The following day on her 18th birthday, Charlie pleads with her uncle. She’ll work for free if he gives her the Bug. “No deal. I’m not hiring… It’s yours, kiddo,” replies her uncle (Len Cariou). Thrilled, Charlie gets the car running in no time and drives home in her first automobile.

Later that night, Charlie’s working on the Bug in the garage when she accidentally activates B-127. He turns back into his robotic self but has no memory of who or what he is – or anything else. The unlikely duo are initially scared of each other, but Charlie and Bumblebee (the name she gives him since he can’t remember his) quickly become best friends. The new (bizarre) BFFs spend time together while working to fix the battle-scarred bot and figure out who he is and where he comes from.

Time, however, is not on Charlie or Bumblebee’s side. Two Decepticons have tracked Bumblebee to Earth and are determined to find him and make him reveal where Optimus Prime is hiding before they kill him.

Full of heart and plenty of action, Bumblebee is the best Transformers film of the tired and bloated franchise. The film rests on Hailee Steinfeld’s shoulders and she delivers a terrific performance as Charlie in the touching coming-of-age story at the script’s core. Any fan of the original cartoon and/or a fan of the 1980s will love this movie.

The script is superior to any of the other Transformers films because the writers actually spent time giving the characters real personalities. The action is well choreographed, filmed and edited so the audience can follow it. There’s no confusion this time as to which robot is which, something that’s been a big problem with this film franchise under Michael Bay’s direction.

The heart and soul of the film is Steinfeld who gives the best performance of her career as Charlie, the sensitive teen who’s detached from her family. Charlie’s a tomboy who desperately misses her father and Steinfeld captures her emotional turmoil and journey. Steinfeld plays opposite the CGI Bumblebee flawlessly and conveys real heartfelt emotion in their scenes in which she confesses the pain she still feels over losing her dad.

Bumblebee is a fresh, fun, and soulful reboot and origin story focusing on the franchise’s most loved Autobot. It’s a true crowdpleaser of a film.

GRADE: B+

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence

Release Date: December 21, 2018

Running Time: 114 minutes

Directed By: Travis Knight




Kevin Finnerty

Kevin Finnerty

Professional film critic since 2003 and a member of the San Diego Film Critics Society. Host of “The Movie Guys” radio film review show from 2007 through 2013. Film and television critic for Showbizjunkies.com and a movie buff since 1973.
Kevin Finnerty
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