This is what you do: You get up on Saturday. Early. You pour yourself a bowl of the most sugar-packed cereal you can find—Lucky Charms, Cookie Crisp, Cinnamon Toast Crunch. You gorge yourself until you have nothing short of a full-blown sugar high. You get to the closest movie theater, and you find the earliest showtime for Transformers. You sit down, and you watch a cartoon like you haven't done since you were three-feet tall.
Transformers is just that—a big, loud, shiny, goofy, unapologetic Saturday morning cartoon. Its ridiculous plot borders on inanity. Its broad humor and ADD pacing will make you slap your palm to your forehead more than once. Its CG robot superheroes have more charisma than any of the film's paper-thin human characters. But still: Transformers is great.
The story is familiar to anyone who grew up in the '80s: In 1984, toy company Hasbro launched Transformers. Basically a half-hour commercial for Hasbro's action figures, the cartoon followed some good alien robots (the Autobots) and some bad alien robots (the Decepticons), all of whom transformed into various vehicles—planes, semi trucks, Volkswagen bugs. Toy sales soared accordingly, and '86 brought the animated Transformers: The Movie, a jumble of random scenes soundtracked by Weird Al and featuring the death of the show's most popular character, Autobot leader Optimus Prime.
Twenty years later, it makes a perverse sort of sense that executive producer Steven Spielberg chose director Michael Bay to resurrect Optimus Prime and crew. With Bad Boys, Armageddon, The Rock, and Pearl Harbor, Bay's spent his entire career trying to turn real-life people and places into preposterous cartoons; here, he's charged with turning a cartoon into something vaguely resembling reality, and he does so with shameless, contagious glee. (Don't be fooled by Transformers' ominous trailers—Bay's film is feather light, silly, and most definitely geared at children, both literal and inner.)
Screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman haven't so much written a film as haphazardly glued together a series of high-adrenaline fight sequences, kickass car (robot?) chases, and easy jokes—all of it captured by Bay's music video-style visuals and enough melodramatic slow-mo to give John Woo pause. The chief plotline has to do with dorky teen Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf), whose crappy used car unexpectedly whirs, clanks, and twists itself into a bigass robot—the loyal, charming Bumblebee. Soon enough, a slew of other robots—both friendly and eeeevil—are chasing each other through streets and buildings, swooping between LA's skyscrapers, and trying to keep out of sight from Sam's parents, awkwardly hiding their 30-foot-tall selves in his backyard. (And yes, here Optimus Prime survives past the 10-minute mark—teaming up with Sam to defeat Megatron, the boss of the Decepticons. Megatron is blandly voiced by Hugo Weaving, but Prime is voiced by Peter Cullen, the same dude who voiced the character in the cartoon—a welcome casting choice that nevertheless seems to have been made to give a few nerdgasms to lonely, aging Transformers dweebs.)
But despite of (or perhaps because of) all of Bay's jovial, wonton destruction, it all feels quick and fun—if you can put yourself in the mindset of your eight-year-old self, you're gonna have a blast. In a lackluster summer blockbuster season, Transformers delivers more lighthearted laughs, impressive visuals, and solid action than anything else currently playing. Yeah, it's a goofy, simple popcorn flick. But it's also a great time—the kind that you haven't had since you were sitting cross-legged in front of the TV on a Saturday morning, your parents asleep upstairs, your eyes glazed over and your mouth full of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.