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REVIEW: ‘Bumblebee’ is a different type of Transformers film (and that’s good)

What do you get when you add a storyline to a Transformers movie and remove the sexualization of women?

Apparently, Bumblebee.

The sixth movie in the franchise opened just before Christmas to mostly positive reviews by critics, who rightly applauded its gripping story and solid performance by actress, Hailee Steinfeld, who plays a teenage girl named Charlie trying to bounce back in life following the death of her beloved father.

He attended her diving meets. She helped him work on cars. Then he died of a heart attack.

Charlie’s mom found a boyfriend and moved on with life. Charlie, though, is still suffering.

“I never got to say goodbye,” she says.

Bumblebee carries positive messages. Charlie cares for Bumblebee. He cares for Charlie. We learn about the importance of fathers — and the importance of reaching out to those who are grieving and hurting.

But there’s hope right around the corner — at a local junkyard. It’s there she finds and drives home a yellow Volkswagen, which appears to be a clunker but turns out to be a robot from another planet. She names it “Bumblebee” and learns it is on the run from a couple of bad alien robots (called Decepticons) who also have found their way to Earth.

In the midst of this dispute, the U.S. government takes the wrong side and pledges to help the Decepticons hunt and destroy Bumblebee. (John Cena plays a government agent.)

The film is a prequel to the other movies. It’s likely the best (and cleanest) one yet.

Those first five Transformers movies were anything but family-friendly, filled with coarse language, f-bombs and a few GDs, too. This one still has language, but not as much. (Details below.) It’s also void of the ogling of females that made those other films so inappropriate for children. That alone is worth celebrating. Of course, it has plenty of Transformer-on-Transformer violence — but, again, not as much as the other ones.

Just as significantly, Bumblebee carries positive messages. Charlie cares for Bumblebee. He cares for Charlie. We learn about the importance of fathers — and the importance of reaching out to those who are grieving and hurting.

Bumblebee still has too much edgy content for me to endorse it. But for a Transformers movie, it’s miles ahead of its predecessors.

Entertainment rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars. Family-friendly rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action violence.

Coarse language: 29 words: OMG (9), h-ll (8), d–n (5), misuse of “God” (3), s–t (2), a– (1), misuse of “Jesus” (1).

Other content warnings: Charlie is bullied by girls. We see a couple of teen boys without their shirts. A woman gets angry at a man for trying to sleep with her sister.

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