'Transformers': A Toy Story Waiting on a Recall Special-effects magic makes Hasbro's toys enormously engaging, but the humans they're out to destroy keep slowing things down. If this film were a lot shorter, and if it kept a focus on the toys, it would be hard to argue with.



'Transformers': A Toy Story Waiting on a Recall

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It must be summer because a new Michael Bay film is in theaters. He directed "Armageddon," "The Rock," "Pearl Harbor," and now "Transformers." Los Angeles Times and MORNING EDITION film critic Kenneth Turan has this review.

KENNETH TURAN: Once upon a time, within the memory of those still living, if a film was successful, it inspired toys. Now, apparently, it's the other way around. "Transformers" is based not on a novel or a play or a screenwriter's inspiration, but on a line of Hasbro toys which have been hot tickets for more than 20 years. If you revere those toys, you already know that. If you don't, there is an enormous reason to care: Transformers, as any small boy can tell you, are robots from outer space…

(Soundbite from movie "Transformers")

(Soundbite of gunfire)

TURAN: …with the ability to change shape to cars and other machines. Having fought each other for eons on their home planet, the good-guy Autobots and evil Decepticons transfer their battle to planet Earth, the improbable new home to an enormous object that is the source of all Transformer life.

(Soundbite of Movie "Transformers")

Unidentified Man (Actor): Emergency Pentagon call. I need you to - do you understand, this is an emergency.

(Soundbite of explosions)

TURAN: Paradoxically, the problem with the movie is not with those Transformers. Computer technology has insured that watching these enormous toys come to life is everything fans could hope for. If this movie were a lot shorter than its inflated two hours and 23 minutes, and kept its focus on the toys, it would be hard to argue with.

Humans, however, inevitably enter the story. The Transformers turn out to be looking for an 11th-grader played by Shia LaBeouf, who spends his time dreaming about a potential girlfriend as well as his first car.

Mr. BERNIE MAC (Actor): (As Bobby Bolivia) Considering the semi-classic nature of the vehicle, with the slick wheels and a custom paint job…

Mr. SHIA LABEOUF (Actor): (As Sam Witwicky) Yeah, but the paint's faded.

Mr. MAC: (As Bobby Bolivia) Yeah, but it's custom.

Mr. LABEOUF: (As Sam Witwicky) It's custom faded?

Mr. MAC: (As Bobby Bolivia) Where is your first time when you (unintelligible)?

TURAN: Too much of "Transformers" is spent with teenagers, who, as the key audience demographic, are fated to save the world. The actors who play them look as much like 11th graders as I do. But the film has bigger problems, like keeping everyone awake while the toys are off the screen. Any film whose most resonant line of dialogue is spoken by a robot who says, it's you and me, Megatron, has no business being two hours and 23 minutes long — no matter how good the toys are.

MONTAGNE: Kenneth Turan reviews movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times.

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