Talk about "transforming." Michael Bay tested the patience of even the most devoted Transformers fan with the second installment of the franchise, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, but the hyperactive director bounces back in energetic form with number three, Transformers: Dark of the Moon. From the long opening sequence (a zany alternate-history reading of the NASA moon program, complete with cameos by John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon) through the predictably extended action climax, Bay is actually on his best behavior. Sure, his taste is as vulgar as ever (is introducing your leading lady via a lingering butt shot part of the director''s personal signature?), but the story line is streamlined and the action is coherent: the constant chop-chop of the fighting sequences in Revenge is gone, replaced by a long-take approach that actually shows us who''s fighting who. Plus, it''s hard to resist a tilting skyscraper that allows the protagonists to slide down its glassy exterior. I know, right?
Shia LaBeouf returns, armed with a new and improbably bodacious girlfriend (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley); although initially unemployed, he''s drawn back into protecting the planet from giant outer-space robots, as the Decepticons menace the Earth once again. John Turturro and Josh Duhamel return to help, and Frances McDormand and John Malkovich join the club. Let''s reduce critical expectations and say that if you''re going to make a dumb movie about mass destruction, this is the way to do it (and if that sounds like faint praise, compare the movie to its abysmal predecessor). Throw in Hangover funnyman Ken Jeong, computer nerd Alan Tudyk doing a German accent, and the voice of Leonard Nimoy as Sentinel Prime, and you''ve got yourself a three-ring circus of extremely spirited nonsense. Just how Michael Bay wants it. --Robert Horton
THE AUTOBOTS LEARN OF A CYBERTRONIAN SPACECRAFT HIDDEN ON THE MOON, AND RACE AGAINST THE DECEPTICONS TO REACH IT AND TO LEARN ITS SECRETS.
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