As big, dumb summer "entertainments" go, they don't get much bigger or much dumber than Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. The briefly amusing mash-up/crunch-up of a couple of summers back has been recycled into an epic 21/2 hours of explosions, ponderous cartoon history, veiled racism and inept geography.
Is it the worst movie of the summer? Possibly. Will everybody see it? Probably.
Revenge of the Fallen promises more Optimus versus Megatron, more Ford versus Chevy (except Ford is AWOL because they didn't want to play the bad-guy cars this time), more Shia LaBeouf versus Megan Fox's cut-off short-shorts.
That last one, by the way — no contest.
Revenge of the Fallen means the robots that supposedly were terminated in Transformers have their "spark, back" led by "The Fallen" (voiced by Tony Todd, of Candyman). They have big plans for this planet that they first discovered thousands of years ago. It's up to Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen's voice), the Autobots and their human (i.e., American) allies to stop them.
Only the government doesn't trust our beloved Camaros that convert into killer robots. They're convinced the 'bots are the magnet that draws the evil Decepticons to Earth for their brawls. The military men just shake their heads at this civilian foolishness.
Meanwhile, the idiotically named Sam Witwicky (LaBeouf) is off to college, where he's pursued by alien co-eds and rescued by the comically hot Mikaela (Fox). Sam is connected to these transforming beasties by his past and an imprint on his brain.
As with the 2007 Transformers movie, the early scenes work best. LaBeouf does a great motor-mouthed patter as Sam hallucinates visions of alien hieroglyphics and maps, annoying his astronomy professor (Rainn Wilson, funny in his one scene) and frightening his player/entrepreneur roomie (Ramon Rodriguez). At some point, though, the funny patter and goofy-mom (Julie White, fearlessly foolish) moments end, and it's all about the metal on metal as we circle the globe, sink an aircraft carrier and trash a pyramid or two in an effort to fend off human extinction.
Director Michael Bay decided he liked the laughs of the first 40 minutes of the 2007 Transformers movie, so he pushed more laughs into this one — jokes about parents eating hash brownies, robots humping Fox's leg, robots trash talking, cursing, and generally acting very street. Two of them have gold teeth, profess to be illiterate and speak a version of "jive" that must date to Starsky and Hutch. Bay came all the way to America from Britain and built a career on Bad Boys movies just to put robots in blackface?
But here's where 2.0 is better than the original. The GM cars are cooler. The effects are sharper, higher-definition. There's none of that blur of chrome and steel that made the first film's fights so tedious. Bay trots out every bit of U.S. military ordnance he can get his hands on — Predators, B-1 bombers. The guy who gave us Pearl Harbor has always wanted to be the new Tony Scott, and with Transformers — which was sort of Top Gun for toddlers during its days as an '80s TV cartoon — he gets his wish.
The banter of the early scenes, the slang-savvy rap that LaBeouf and Rodriguez share about "pretty Bettys" (the opposite of Ugly Betty), the way Fox embraces being exploited for her sensuality — that is all abandoned for hours of chases and explosions.
Bay couldn't bear to edit out a single effect or explosion. Even the third-act return of an over-the-top John Turturro as a disgraced government agent looking for redemption can't help The Fallen get up.