This is what happens when Michael Bay is kept away from the director’s chair of a Transformers movie: We get a funny, heartfelt throwback, a nostalgic action-adventure buddy dramedy that offers sweet reminders of E.T. and other ’80s kiddie sci-fi. In 1987, scout Autobot B-127 (the voice, briefly, of Dylan O’Brien) is sent to Earth to prepare a new base for the “Autobot resistance” against the evil Decepticons. It doesn’t go well, and B-127 ends up in hiding, disguised as a yellow VW bug until 18-year-old Charlie (a terrific Hailee Steinfeld) uncovers his secret. She names him Bumblebee—B-127 was damaged and cannot speak to tell her his name—and makes him her new best friend. Of course there’s a government agent (John Cena) who wants to get his hands on Bee; of course there are robot battles with the fate of the planet in the balance. But mostly this is a gentle girl-and-her-alien-robot-car lark that hits all the right notes—including a ton of great ’80s pop and rock dropped in, just because it can.
Director: Travis Knight
Producer: Lorenzo di Bonaventura, Tom DeSanto, Don Murphy, Michael Bay, Mark Vahradian, Steven Spielberg, Brian Goldner and Chris Brigham
Cast: Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, Pamela Adlon, Stephen Schneider, Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, Peter Cullen, Dylan O'Brien, Ricardo Hoyos and Gracie Dzienny