Transformers: Age of Extinction is the first in the series without the presence of that Transformers fixture, Shia LaBoeuf, but the series (based on the box office grosses, if nothing else) will do just fine without him.
In this installment, the Transformers’ major human ally is now Mark Wahlberg, an inventor/widower/Puritanical father, who buys an old truck and discovers it is really a very injured Optimus Prime (heroic lead Transformer). It seems that the Transformers who helped save the world (or at least Chicago) in the last go-round are now being hunted by a sinister elite unit aided by a Transformer bounty hunter and headed by Kelsey Grammer (more “Boss” than “Frasier”) for reasons unknown (though I might as well tell you, it involves the potential for great wealth, mass destruction, and possible world domination—I hope I didn’t reveal anything you didn’t already know).
In any case, as much as inventor Mark wants to keep his find a secret, wouldn’t you know it, those pesky special-op assassins show up, threatening Mark’s supposedly chaste college-bound daughter (Nicola Peltz) unless he reveals Prime’s presence. What happens next involves a timely rescue, a lengthy car chase, endless explosions, and some (gasp!) character revelations —and we’re only at the halfway mark. Proud father Mark’s human rescuer is none other than her daughter’s clandestine boyfriend (after she had promised not to date until after her high school graduation!) which leads to some tedious bickering not only during the protracted chase, but intermittently throughout the remainder of this opus, which involves infiltrating Transformer manufacturer Stanley Tucci’s corporation to get to the bottom of everything—whereas much Transformers mayhem ensues.
These twists of plot and miniscule nods in the direction of character development may no doubt attract a few individuals to the Transformers films, but in all likelihood, if you’re going to Transformers, you’ll want excitement, carnage, robot on robot encounters, and a moment or two where the lead human characters justify their relevance to the action. Transformers: Age of Extinction contains all that—and then some. It generally holds the attention, but at 165 minutes long, the audience might feel as pulverized as some of the major characters (both human and mechanical). Michael Bay, I pray you…in the future, place a firmer hand on your editor’s shoulder—not all the footage needed to be kept.
Tammy presents a force of a different type—Melissa McCarthy—in a vehicle co-written by her and her husband Ben Falcone and directed by Mr. Falcone. In the latest paean to this cinematic comedic vortex, Ms. McCarthy is Tammy, a gal who’s having a really bad day—hitting a deer, getting fired (the boss is played by Mr. Falcone in a funny cameo), discovering her hubby is having an affair with her neighbor. What’s a gal to do? Take off with Grandma Susan Sarandon (yes, you read that right) on a road trip to Niagara Falls funded by Granny Susan’s $6700 (no, she doesn’t believe in credit cards). Along the way, there are the requisite bar scenes, encounters with the law (shades of Thelma and Louise, only now it’s Tammy and Pearl), romantic interludes, slapstick hijinx, and so-called touching moments. The movie is amiable enough, but there are few laugh out loud moments, and the big comic set-piece (involving the robbery of a fast-food place), goes on far too long for the chuckles it produces. In spite of her relative youth, Ms. Sarandon provides a nice counterpoint to Ms. McCarthy, and the other supporting players (including Kathy Baker, Gary Cole and Mark Duplass) make the most of their screen time. It’s nicethat McCarthy and Falcone can work together…hopefully the next collaboration produces something a little more substantial.