I wanted to like Transformers, Michael Bay's newest, loudest, Hollywood romp. I collected the toys as a kid and to me they were the apex of childhood entertainment. It's a car. It's a robot. It's a car again? It's a cartoon show! What else could I ask for? Unfortunately the live-action movie gets stuck. Transformers starts off great but changes into a train wreck about half-way through.
This amazing cinematic transformation is the result of a common summer-movie blunder--the basic fact that a project is going to be huge regardless of what happens, so it is simply handed off to the special effects department (in this case the ubiquitous Industrial Light and Magic) while the writers and actors ad-lib much of the film. Most people will not mind one bit simply because of the Transformers themselves. They are the coolest creations I have seen in a movie all summer and you can hardly tell that they live and die in the CGI world. It's all very seamless.
The movie does a nice job building up momentum and urgency. You witness a Decepticon (the evil cadre of Transformers) searching for a unique power source known as the Allspark, and trashing a U.S. military installation in the process. The protagonist Sam (Shia LeBeouf) is introduced, a teenager who unknowingly possesses the key to the location of the Allspark. Sam learns that the Autobots need what he has. The fate of the universe (or something) hangs in the balance. The movie's foundations set, it then transforms into a real mess.
The Autobots bumble about Sam's backyard, crushing his dad's flower garden, freaking Sam out. They inexplicably attempt to hide from Sam's parents who peer out the window wondering what is making all that noise. Meanwhile, remember, the fate of the universe hangs in the balance. Then John Turturro shows up and even the Autobots are rendered powerless next to his manic riffing. Turturro was presumably given a lot of leeway when playing the cliche role of uptight government agent but it comes across as a leftover caricature from his acting school days.