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Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen 

To appreciate Michael Bay's movies, one must learn to accept that his interests haven't developed much since seventh grade.

There's a small detail in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen that cuts to the heart of Michael Bay's tact. Teen hero Sam (Shia LaBeouf) sits in his university astronomy class, where somehow every enrolled female student looks like a Maxim model. To appreciate some of Bay's movies, one must learn to accept that his interests probably haven't developed much since seventh grade. Transformers 2, like the first one in the series, and Armageddon, takes the passions of an excitement-starved, emotionally stunted boy, and turns them into gigantic postcard iconography.

This isn't to say that Transformers 2 is good, exactly. At two-and-a-half hours long, it feels like five. And what little story there is has barely any discipline or structure whatsoever. But as a summer behemoth, it really knows its place. Bay's beer- and car-commercial visuals were offensive in Pearl Harbor. In Transformers 2, they serve his grand Americana: the military, teen lust, outer space, war, General Motors. It's less a movie than an expert collage of hyper-polished summer blockbuster matter.

Scrapping the central auto-human love affair of the first film (the equation of boys playing with toys with men and their war machines) hurts the sequel. Bay's macho worldview hasn't the humanity to seek real depth beyond his images. The last movie was about teenage Sam breaking from his nerd shell by getting a cool car, dating beauty Mikaela (Megan Fox) and winning a war. In short, he became the Michael Bay ideal of a great American. This time, since Sam's no longer an underdog, there's nowhere much to go. Only a couple scenes focus on his inability to tell Mikaela he loves her. This should be the driving personal conflict, but Revenge of the Fallen is too distracted by noise to run with it. Bay makes up for it because his filmmaking is more energized throughout---not just during the action scenes.

The first, and successful, half has an anything-goes sensibility. This isn't quite Crank 2, but it's a proudly loony sequel. Sam freaks out at a party, writing hieroglyphics out of icing. He's later seduced in his dorm by a "female" machine. When his mom eats pot brownies and molests students on a campus visit, it's a cheap Bayism. You will recall a similarity to Homophobic Joke #44 in Bad Boys 2, which had Martin Lawrence hitting on his male boss while on Ecstasy. So much of Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen seems gratuitous that it finally achieves a zany liberation.

It's at about that point that Bay regresses into turbo-action tedium. The robots duke it out against the Egyptian pyramids, and the film's zaniness slackens into a beautifully rendered but lumberingly paced showdown of Hasbro toys. The state-of-the-art robot effects in the first film were criticized for taking secondary status to human characters. In TF2, they're overused until they become too much of a good thing. Spectacular, exhausting and brain-dead, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is a five-course meal made of foods you probably shouldn't eat.

For showtimes, see Movie Times, page 19. Fill up on empty calories at


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