Don’t worry if you’re unfamiliar with the Transformers franchise; this week’s film is a standalone prequel, accessible to all.
It’s 1987, and teenage Charlie is grieving her father’s death, while her relationship with her mother is strained. When she finds a yellow Volkswagen Beetle in her uncle’s scrapyard, she decides fixing it up might be the perfect project to lift her spirits.
That plan doesn’t work out so well when the car turns out to be an alien robot-like organism (a “Transformer”) in disguise. Charlie names the creature Bumblebee, and soon finds that befriending the gentle giant is much more exciting than owning an ordinary car.
But the fun times end when Charlie learns that Bumblebee is in danger from the same enemies that destroyed his homeworld, and Charlie finds she will have to summon the confidence she lost when her father passed away if she’s to save her new friend.
Overall, Bumblebee is somewhat reminiscent of films like E.T. and The Iron Giant, though with an extra dose of sci-fi robot fighting action. But the film’s strength is in its exploration of finding one’s identity. Due to their individual circumstances, both Charlie and the alien creature feel alone and must learn to reconnect with others in a new way, each uniquely equipped to help the other. A bit of crude humor plus some sci-fi action and violence make this one PG-13 and more appropriate for older viewers.