'Transformers (Two-Disc Special Edition) '
(Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, et al / 2-Disc DVD / PG-13 / 2007 / Paramount)
Overview: "I bought a car. Turned out to be an alien robot. Who knew?" deadpans Sam Witwicky, hero and human heart of Michael Bay's rollicking robot-smackdown fest, Transformers. Witwicky (the sweetly nerdy Shia LaBeouf, channeling a young John Cusack) is the perfect counterpoint to the nearly nonstop exhilarating action. The plot is simple: an alien civil war (the Autobots vs. the evil Decepticons) has spilled onto Earth, and young Sam is caught in the fray by his newly purchased souped-up Camaro. Which has a mind - and identity, as a noble-warrior robot named Bumblebee - of its own!
DVD Verdict: The thing that strikes you the most while watching the movie "Transformers" is not how spectacular its special effects are or how ferociously its action sequences come across on screen, but rather how very FUNNY so much of the movie manages to be. After having sat stone-faced through many of the alleged "comedies" foisted upon us in recent months - "Evan Almighty," "License to Wed," even "Shrek the Third," to name just a few - I'm pleased to announce that I laughed quite a bit throughout the course of "Transformers" - and I do mean good-sized belly-laughs, not mere titters or snickers. Prime credit for that obviously goes to screenwriters, Roberto Orci and Ales Kurtzman, but I would be remiss if I didn't also acknowledge Shia LaBeouf's contributions in this regard. In this his first certified blockbuster, LaBeouf finally achieves the superstardom he`s been steadily heading towards the past several years.
As everyone already knows, "Transformers" is based on a phenomenally successful line of Hasbro toys as well as the animated series derived therefrom. Transformers are giant robots from outer space who have the ability to metamorphose into the shape of virtually any everyday mechanical device - cars, cell phones, boom boxes etc. - they so desire. In the film, the transformers have just arrived on earth in search of a mysterious box that has the power to create an army of such robots that, given unbridled freedom, would be able to take over the world. Some of the transformers have evil intentions while others have an affinity for mankind and do their best to keep us out of the clutches of the bad guys. LaBeouf plays Sam Witwicky, a brainy, perpetually tongue-tied (especially when he's trying to impress the unreachable girl of his dreams), social outcast whose father agrees to help him buy a rundown Camaro that, unbeknownst to either of them, is actually a good transformer in disguise just waiting for Sam to become his owner.
It goes without saying that, on a strictly technical level, the transformers have made a stunning transition to the live action format. There are brief moments when they appear a trifle fake, but director Michael Bay keeps the action moving along at such a dizzying pace, that we rarely have time to notice that flaw. I'm not one who normally goes in for Bay's cuisinart style of moviemaking - near-subliminal quick cuts mixed in with endless explosions and rafter-rattling sound effects - but I think it works quite well in this instance. He's also blessed in having LaBeouf as his lead actor, for it is LaBeouf's non-threatening All-American Boy looks and wide-eyed innocence that give the movie the emotional grounding it needs to be more than just the lumbering mechanical creation it could easily have become without him. In fact, whenever he isn't on screen, the movie does, indeed, threaten to devolve into just the standard popcorn action movie filled with jaw-dropping special effects but minus a heart or soul (the transformers themselves are never very interesting as characters and they are stuck mouthing sappy platitudes whenever they do get a chance to speak). But LaBeouf brings to the movie the human dimension it needs to keep our interest.
Kevin Dunn and Julie White are thoroughly delightful as Sam's well-meaning but utterly befuddled parents, while Bernie Mac and Anthony Anderson also score high on the laughter meter. For purposes of gravitas, movie veterans Jon Voight and John Turturro are also along for the ride.
And quite a ride it turns out to be, I must say. "Transformers" has pretty much everything a modern-day blockbuster needs to be successful. But it is the rare good humor with which the movie plays its hand that is so completely unexpected - and so very much appreciated in this quarter. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Special Features of:
Commentary by Director Michael Bay
"Our World" Featurette
"Their War" Featurette
"More Than Meets The Eye" Featurette