Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots Among Us

"But regardless of when or where the robots do battle, their tactics differ little from their cousins, the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots...Optimus Prime, the head honcho, prefers vintage taunts like 'punk-ass Decepticon!' as though channelling early Eastwood."

—portion of Chris Knight's review in today's National Post newspaper

A couple of weeks ago Max and I rented Transformers (the movie). It was a Friday night and we were both in need of an Exciting Action Experience. I was not, however, prepared for the Serious Cheese portion that came along with it, aimed no doubt at the 14-20 year old male demographic. This was pretty much solely the responsibility of a pretty brunette in short shorts, a shorter top, gleaming teeth and tan, and as such it was her unfortunate duty to be The Willing Butt of Many a Sexist Joke, although I suppose by Hollywood standards this could be considered hitting the big time, but we won't go there. I tried to ignore this aspect of the movie, in the interests of remaining relatively objective, but watching Shia LaBeouf grind his teeth on the hood of a car at the sight of a girl in a short top bending over the engine of a car did make me cringe a bit.

Max too averted his gaze at all the fromage being tossed around. "I'm not into that stuff" was his response, well, when he wasn't shushing Richard and I, because we had a hard time keeping quiet during some of it. We groaned and rolled our eyes and made tactless remarks as Cool Jocks, Surfer Dudes, Hot Chicks, and Noble Army Guys stereotyped their way across the script. Max saved his attention for the action sequences, in which Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, and Megatron, among others, battled it out in various highly explosive ways, pausing occasionally for some loud music, some "transforming," or the odd idiotic remark, aimed this time at the 10+ crowd ("Parents are annoying" "Oops, my bad" "This dude is a serious bad ass!"). I think I groaned a total of 4,329 times. And tried to ignore Richard poking me in the side and saying "And you thought this would be a GOOD movie? Ha. Nice one, Sheila."

It was so formulaic I was mildly embarrassed at having rented it, well, until dinner the next evening when FDPG said "Bumblebee is the yellow transformer, right? Does he kill Megatron or does Optimus Prime?" "How do you know about Bumblebee?" I asked her. "Max told us all about it this morning," she replied, "He said it was a really great movie."

Max, his mouth stuffed with food, nodded vigorously. I stared at him briefly. I stared at the twins. I ignored Richard's snickering.

"Max says it's a really really really really really really good movie, can we watch it before you take it back to the video store?" Dominic said hopefully. "No!" I said, trying to forget the fact that I'd actually paid to watch this movie. "It's not a movie for seven year olds. Besides, there's too much clichéed sexy stuff in it. I don't want you watching that sexist crap. It might give you sexist ideas." "I'll close my eyes!" begged Dominic, "pleeeeeeeeese? I promise not to be sexist."

And so it was that we had a Second Showing of the phenomenon known as Transformers: The Movie in our living room. We started with me nervously fastforwarding through the Cheesy Bits until I realized that the twins regarded the Cheesy Bits as superfluous and annoyingly distracting to the Main Plot, after which I relaxed a bit (but still fast forwarded, because some of that stuff is just too stupid to be seen).

The following day saw Dominic wandering around, muttering Optimus Prime over and over again, to himself. Well, when he wasn't telling me was a FABULOUS movie it was. And what FABULOUS names Optimus Prime and Megatron were. Before too long we were all speaking in the falsely portentous voice Optimus Prime used, introducing ourselves as Optimus Prime:

I'm Optimus Prime, Lord of all Vehicles, and I speak in a really really really deep voice. I will save your planet from destruction because you stupid humans aren't so bad after all.

The things I do. Fortunately Richard was away on a business trip at the time, so he wasn't around to mock me further.

Then this morning I saw a review of the upcoming Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen movie in our newspaper. I'd already seen this review in a British newspaper so I was prepared for the unbridled ribbing; what I was not prepared for was the reaction of my kids. I read them the review out loud, pausing slowly over certain bits, so the kids could take in every drop of sarcasm:

You still might find that a prolonged mid-movie trip to the snack bar helps you understand [the film]...Of course, you'll risk missing one of the 17 utterances of "the fallen shall rise" that make the movie sound like an angry advertisement for a senior's help line. On the other hand, you may walk out during a sequence that sounds like this - BLAM Oh no! POWIE - only to find it still going on when you come back 15 minutes later.

They all laughed uproariously. "That sounds GREAT!" Max laughed, "can we go see it when it comes out?" "PLEASE?" shouted FDPG, "that sounds hilarious!" Dominic was still chortling at the comparison to the Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots. "Rock It Sock It - that's SO funny!"

I feel compelled to point out here that none of my kids know what these are, although when I showed them later on YouTube Max remembered them from a Toy Story movie.

"How many stars did it get?" Max asked me.

"One," I answered.

"Oh, same as Land of the Lost," Max said. "I guess he liked it about the same."

"Yup," I said, "guess he did."

"So," Max persisted, "are we going to see it? I don't care that he didn't think it was good. I think we'll love it."

"Let's wait for it to come out on rental," I said. "I don't think I can handle all that cheese."

"Just because we don't agree with a movie critic doesn't mean that it is going to be a bad movie, you know," he said, sounding remarkably lucid, "there are lots of things you and I don't agree about but it doesn't mean that you're always right and I'm always wrong."

I thought briefly about making a scathingly witty remark at this point but didn't, because I was so shocked at the sense of his thoughts.

Not that I'm taking them to see Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen anytime soon. Oh no. We'll wait for it to come out on rental.

Something tells me it won't take long.


Anonymous said...

Here's a great review on This is the best line: Memo to Michael [Bay]: It's a toy movie. Your audience is predominantly teen and pre-teen. My kids don't need to see your salivating soft-porn fantasies or your reactionary militaristic politics. Most of all, none of us needs to sit through 2½ hours of this inane and mind-numbing movie. Better it should be melted down for scrap.


sheila said...

Ha! So I'm not the only one bristling at Megan Fox's lines. Comforting, that.

After the Post review there were 7 more review blurbs, all beginning with the phrase "It was like listening to/watching/being in a ____" And not one of them was complimentary.

But all this irony and patronizing went completely over the heads of my sons. They think it looks...wait for it..."cool." Sigh.

sheila said...

Ha ha ha! I just read that review: "the most terrible revenge since Montezuma's." Such clever wordplay.

I particularly liked this next bit:

'There's no rhythm in his slam-bang cutting, no discipline in his orientation, and there's so little to distinguish an Autobot (the good Transformers) from a Decepticon (the bad) that at any given moment, it's a toss-up who is pulverizing who."

Yes, sigh, very true.

Suji said...

The first movie was a huge disappointment for me personally. I wanted to see much more of Bumblebee and Optimus! My kiddo get so grossed out by the cheesy scenes right now, he practically growls when he asks them to get on with it :) Oh if only that will last. We'll probably wait for the latest one to appear at our neighborhood DVD Play kiosk but it was good to get the heads up reviews :) Thanks sheila!

sheila said...

Suji, my main quibble with the first movie was how fast the action scenes went by and how confusing they were. I think with robots that big you need to have a more skilled cameraman just so the audience can get proper perspective. And using the robots to highlight Silly Human Foibles is more than a little inane.

Andrea said...

Luckily my boy is long past transformer movies (almost 16) but you had me rolling on the floor. You should write a book, you really should!

Suji said...

I hear you about the cameraman. I read somewhere that they had to use special cameras or something just to catch Jet Li in action in all his movies too.

See! That's another person who insists you should write a book :) The boys have gone to see Transformers at the cinema now. I've caught their flu/fever bug and am going to see what I can make out of a Phoebe in Wonderland DVD at home with a nice warm mug of honey+lemon and lots of quiet :)

sheila said...

Well, Suji, I fully expect a run down of that movie now, you realize. We all want to hear about the Cheese quotient, too!