Monday, July 30, 2007

Review by Sombrero Grande

The moment I heard Peter Cullen’s voice (he was the voice of Optimus Prime in the original ‘80s cartoon) speak at the beginning of Transformers, I was instantly transported back to my childhood. I suddenly became intensely excited--the kind of excitement a kid feels on Christmas morning--about what was to be unwrapped before me: a live-action movie...all about Transformers.

By the end of the movie I had pinned down another feeling from childhood to express my ultimate disappointment in Michael Bay’s Transformers. Remember when a friend would invite you over to check out the cool new toys he had just gotten? After your folks dropped you off you quickly came to realize that you were invited over by your friend just to watch him play with his new toys.

Li’l Sombrero Grande: “C-can I play with one, Michael?”

Li’l Michael Bay: “No. Watch, I’m making a story.”

Li’l SG: “B-but, can I play too?”

Li’l MB: “No, it’s a story I’m making! Look! Look! I’m making Bumblebee piss on a guy!”

Li’l SG: “…I don’t like your story.”

It’s the feeling of watching Optimus Prime say, “my bad,” and feeling almost betrayed by the character. I thought to myself, my Optimus Prime would never say that. My Bumblebee wouldn’t simulate urinating on someone. I was watching Michael Bay playing with his toys, using them to make jokes about bodily functions, pop culture references and even masturbation, and I can’t say I terribly enjoyed the experience.

The jokes in Bay’s “story” were aimed at the most immature members of the audience--the type of people who think the mere mention of masturbation is comedic gold. The action was so over-the-top that was often hard to tell exactly what was going on onscreen, becoming monotonous and even boring by the end.

It took far too long to get the the Autobots finally assembled onscreen, so that by the time they all finally showed up, I really didn't care as much any more. In fact, the first third of the movie with Bumblebee incessantly driving himself around and whatnot, felt like an even more dumbed down version of a Herbie flick more than anything that had to do with transforming robot warriors.

Initially I was okay with this film essentially being a giant commercial for toys--at least, judging from how prominently the “Hasbro” name was displayed in the opening credits, they weren’t pretending it wasn’t--but after a while, with the plethora of brand names being tossed around so frequently and blatantly, I started to think that maybe these companies should have paid me to watch the film! Once Transformers is out on DVD, I bet a drinking game will spring up immediately on college campuses all over: every time a brand is shown on screen or mentioned by name, take a shot. "Porsche!" Take a shot. "Taco Bell!" Take a shot. "Mountain Dew!" Take a shot. Lightweights shouldn’t even attempt it. When Optimus Prime looks right into the camera and slowly and deliberately says simply, “eBay,” that’s when I started to have enough. At one point in the film, there’s a little girl shown with giant stuffed My Little Pony (another resurfacing ‘80s Hasbro toy brand). It’s a cute touch, until she starts wandering around with it, clutching it so tightly and parading it before the camera as though it was permanently attached to her body. I started to wonder when Mr. Potato Head, Mr. Monopoly and the guy from the Operation game would be showing up.

Sombrero Grande’s advice: if all you’re interested in is a big, dumb popcorn movie with lots of things blowing up, you could do worse this summer than see Transformers. Anyone else, however, would be better off playing with their own toys the way they want to and leaving Li’l Michael Bay to play with his toys by himself.


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