- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 8, 2007

Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group dedicated to improving the entertainment lives of families, provides reviews of the latest movies from a parenting perspective. For more reviews, go to www.commonsensemedia.org.

‘Transformers’

Rating: PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi action violence, brief sexual humor and language.

Common Sense Media: On. For ages 12 and older.

… (out of five stars)

Running time: 144 minutes

Common Sense review: Big and boomy, “Transformers” skimps on plot and character development, instead focusing on its spectacular explosions. Though the opening voice-over offers a cursory back story — the good Autobots and the bad Decepticons fought over a cube that has the power to create worlds and, in the process, destroyed their own planet — it hardly matters why these giant robots have come to Earth. The point is much simpler: They blow stuff up.

First, the bad robots head to the Middle Eastern desert, where the U.S. Air Force has stationed men near Qatar. A Decepticon disguised as a helicopter attacks a unit, sending the men into speedy, loud action mode. Back in the U.S., Secretary of Defense John Keller (Jon Voight) gathers great minds to figure out the strange happenings.

Before you can say “Independence Day,” the movie cuts again to the “regular people” contingent — specifically, 11th-grader Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf). Taunted by his classmates, nerdy, entrepreneurial Sam has a massive crush on scantily clad Mikaela (Megan Fox) and is about to get his first car, courtesy of his wealthy dad. Sam finds an ancient yellow Camaro at a used-car dealership and drives off not knowing it’s an Autobot named Bumblebee. Neither does Sam realize that he has in his possession the key to the all-powerful cube — a key that all the robots, good and bad, desperately want.

The many plot strands don’t so much come together as collide.

Common Sense note: Parents need to know that even though the myriad tie-in toys are being marketed to children as young as 2 years old, this explosion-heavy action movie based on the ‘80s cartoon and action figures is not for young children. It’s packed with scenes of loud, hectic combat, destruction and flying missiles and bodies. Plus, it’s long; the characters swear; and there’s some sexual imagery.

Families can discuss why children want to see this movie — Is it because of the story or all of the toys and other tie-in products about which they have been hearing? Who’s the movie’s intended audience? Is it today’s children (and, if so, what age group?) or grown-ups who were children when the toys were first popular? How does this big-screen version compare to the different TV shows and the previous movie? Do the explosions and crashes seem more serious here than in the cartoon versions? How does the fact that the new movie is live action instead of animated affect the appropriate viewing age?

Sexual content: Mikaela wears a cleavage-showing midriff top; posters of bikini-clad girls are in Sam’s bedroom; a character admits he’s still a virgin.

Language alert: In addition to a couple incomplete extreme expletives, the language includes other milder expletives

Violence alert: An early attack by alien robots results in fiery explosions and bodies flying; barking dogs chase Sam; there is a huge battle in the desert (robots vs. Air Force); Transformers attack Sam and Mikaela; a flashback shows destruction of Transformers’ planet; a lengthy fight scene on city streets ends the film — more explosions, shooting, missiles and bodies; Bumblebee is damaged and must be towed.

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