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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Boys' Happy Time: Transformers, Reviewed

So Michael Bay, Christopher Guest, John Hughes, and David Cronenberg decide that they want to make a movie, and they hire on Timothy Leary to provide Craft Services. My review could stop there, but how likely is that?

It's not like I've seen a lot of porn movies. Even so, me saying that Transformers is the porniest damn movie I've ever seen is not to be taken in the same spirit as, say, "The best martial arts movie ever to come out of France," or "The best pinot noir to come out of Michigan." It is shameless, relentless, gratuitous boy!porn from minute one. It's also incredibly baked—baked on the level of Crank baked. It also pretty much rocks.

The wafer thin plot centers around both sets of Transformers—the Autobots, who stand for truth, autonomy, Christmas, and puppies, and the Decepticons, who disrespect the common worker, have glowing red eyes, consist entirely of sharp, pokey things, and don't think much of humans—searching for the Hellraiser cube Allspark.

At the beginning of his monologue (and, as it turns out, the whole movie, from Blackout's opening money shot to the disturbing, cross-species voyeurism, is a flashback monologue), Optimus Prime —leader of the Autobots and a "good guy" despite the outrageously Orwellian name—implies that they are looking for the cube so that they can revitalize the world that they've irretrievably fucked up. The Decepticons want the cube to . . . well, I actually have no idea why they want the cube, but its life-giving powers never really come up again anyway, so do you want to know the terrifying truth, or do you want to see Frenzy pull off Shia LeBeouf's pants?

From the human side, the plot is divided for much of the movie. On the one hand, the government is scrambling in the wake of a physical attack on an Air Force base in Qatar and repeated attempts to hack our 5up3r 533kr1t databases. On the other, Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf, panted, for the time being) is funding his Porky's Vision Quest by eBay auctioning off the tchotckes inherited from his arctic-circle-exploring, "iceman"-finding, crazy-dying grandfather.

The government cannot hope to fight off this (probably North Korean, or possibly Chinese) attack without the help of infant computer analysts ranging from Tom Lenk (really! And he could have been playing Andrew, but he totally wasn't!) to some kind of refugee from the set of a particularly low-budget porno movie. (And for the record, I think her voice was the real weapon of annihilation.)

Neither the nerds nor the pr0n refugee can get the job done by themselves. There's another attack that can be laid directly at the feet of ding dongs, both the putatively edible ones and the type that don't think it's odd to find the odd boombox in Air Force 1's elevator. After pausing for an extended Air Force recruitment porno video and a lot of running around at the Pentagon, none of it related to the fact that Tom Lenk just up and disappears after far too few lines, they call in the m@d35t h@ckz0rz of all. Tragically, this gentlemen happens to be Black and he's introduced amid a flurry of comic relief that pretty much borders on an Amos & Andy routine. Cultural sensitivity is not in the core competency suite of the baked.

Sam, meanwhile, must defeat the reverse-aging incarnation of Robert Z'Dar (RAIRZ) if he hopes to get in the pants of The Girl (not that she wears pants, mind you, or anything that even mimics a lower body covering of any kind). RAIRZ is a covert Sam ally, though: After manfully deciding to cede the beach to Sam and his prehensile-toed stoner friend (who gets left at the beach and is never seen again), he tries (noneuphemistically) to relegate Mikaela to the back of his external penis.

Despite the fact that, as M put it "It seems unlikely that this is a sudden heel turn." Mikaela decides that nobody puts not!bunny in the rumble seat and resolves to walk the 10 miles home in her wedges and pudendum-revealing skirt. Sam takes the advice of his possessed car's radio and gives chase. The car breaks down. Mikaela thrusts her breasts at it and "tightens its distributor cap," and refuses to start. She seems to blame Sam for this and teeters off again. But the car starts! And she gets in again! And there's more painful pr0n-movie dialogue! (I had not yet clued into the fact that a la Baron Christopher, anything having to do with personal interactions was completely improvised; the Guest-esque improvisation in the scenes with Sam, his parents [Kevin Dunn and Julie White], and the chihuahua while the Autobots are "hiding" in the yard was absolutely top notch.)

And then John Turturro shows up. No, really! I thought I was making it up, too, especially when Sam, Mikaela, and the Autobots force him to rip off his clip-on tie and strip down to his boxers and wife beater (which bears the "Sector 7 logo," and I think someone owes a certain man of steel some royalties). And when Bumblebee uncorks his . . . whatever a corvette would uncork . . . and takes a whiz on one of Turturro's men. (Seriously, I'm really really not making that up. Optimus Prime sternly orders him to stop "lubricating" the individual.)

Optimus really shouldn't be so hard on Bumbleebee, though, because during the obligatory Kong-fettering scene, it's quite clear that Bumblebee is the Rainman of the group. When you get this group of directors together, what are the odds that it will have escaped their collective attention that movie-going audiences love crazy or otherwise mentally and physically disabled people? Bumblebee has plenty of footage of him blinking big, sad, empty blue eyes to fill up his Oscar reel.

Eventually the script gets impatient with these stupid people on opposite sides of a big continent (and those stupid Air Force people lost in the dumb desert), and it scoops up all and sundry and brings them to the Hoover Dam. Which is good, because then we can get to the part where it is all giant, transforming robots fighting other giant, transforming robots all the time.

Oh, why Hoover Dam, though? Because Hoover Dam was actually built to hide: (1) the giant, be-sigiled alien cube and (2) the giant frozen robot-y thing. The four football fields' worth of concrete disguises the "unique energy signature" (everybody do a Stargate shot!) of the cube from any hostile aliens that might be looking for it. EXCEPT FOR THE GIANT HOSTILE ALIEN THAT YOU'RE STORING IN THE DAMNED THING'S UPPER BUNK! Ahem.

For a while at the Hoover Dam, it seems as if we might be robbed of precious giant, transforming robot kung fu fighting by John Turturro's need to show us how to make a monster out of a cell phone. (As much as I wanted to rip out Rachael Taylor's throat so she could never, ever inflict her voice on anyone ever again, I have to give her bit with Jon Voight about Nokias being from Finland two Nigel Tufnels up.)

Fortunately, Josh Duhamel (have I mentioned that he's very pretty and very charming) is strongly if inexplicably moved by a boy's love for his robot. When things start to go Tango Uniform at the Dam, he and his fellow Air Force-y types turn their guns on their counterparts and demand air support as they rush Sam and the conveniently ensmallened cube to a nearby city for maximum anarchy during the huge, inevitable, and hot giant-transforming-robot-on-giant-transforming-robot action.

And, oh, it is so very hot, if very strangely edited. And surprisingly . . . well, not bloody, but . . . automotively effluvial: Bumblebee secures his Oscar nod by losing both his legs; Jazz (the lone Brother Autobot) is ripped the fuck in half, not that anyone notices for a good 25 minutes. And where is our fearless leader during the first 25 minutes or so? Well, you see, Optimus is quite the diva, and his ass is not on screen unless his goddamned theme music is cued up. And if you delay his theme music for too long, he forgets almost every useful feature he has. And his stabby, stabby swordfist was sorely missed.

But seriously, this is the dumbest, most entertaining, most fabulously true-to-the-80s movie I've ever seen. The 'bot FX are supercool, especially the on-the-fly transforming. The editing of the fights was a little frenetic, to the point that it was sometimes hard to tell who was fighting (Bumblebee and Ratchet, for example, are both yellow, and you know how those yellow giant robots all look alike).

I have to imagine that the staff and writers' meetings involved a lot of running around while pretending to be an airplane, finger pistols, and Patchoo Patchoo, NEeeeeEEEEERRRRRBBBBBBBKOOOOOOW! kind of business, but there's not a thing wrong with that. At least not a thing that a giant, transforming robot rumble can't fix.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Haha, that was a brilliant review, but I didn't think Rachel Taylor was all that bad. I seriously did have problems distinguishing Ratchet from Bumblebee and I love the part about Jazz being the lone Brother bot. So true.

1:58 PM  

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