Originally published Sunday, December 30, 2018 at 07:30p.m.

“Bumblebee,” one of the most easily recognized and adorable AutoBots, is back in a spin-off that is dripping with gooey feels and a lot of heart between a girl and her transforming robot car. For kids of the 80s, Hasbro tugs on your nostalgic heart strings with music of the era, Alf, Mr. T cereal, “The Breakfast Club,” Pong and teased bangs. You’ll have to explain strange objects to your ‘90s offspring like corded phones, the timer on coffee makers, manual car windows and what existed before Google. The film features an impressive female lead in Hallie Steinfeld, warm character development and an emotional connection that is believable.

Set in 1987, B-127 (Bumblebee) is a refugee of the war resistance on Cybertron. He is launched into space by Optimus Prime with a mission to find a safe outpost. Aliens from advanced worlds generally gravitate to primitive Earth with its ultra-violent and irresponsible lifeforms so--Earth it is. Arriving as a fiery meteor, Bumblebee startles a platoon of Sector-7 agents and is pummeled with American firepower even though he is fleeing and not returning fire. Two Decepticons, disguised as American muscle cars, are in pursuit. They attack Bee and leave him with amnesia. This plot is simple and lacks the labyrinthine intersections of the franchise films. The Decepticons merely want the whereabouts of Optimus Prime. So, after exploiting military officials, the Decepticons unwittingly give Earth the Internet and satellite surveillance – circa Raegan’s Star Wars project – which allows them to search instantly for Bee’s location. Meanwhile, in California, Charlie (Steinfeld) is a rebel teen with a dream: Get a car for her 18th birthday. But Charlie is too lazy to work so her entitlement leaves her stuck with an amnesiac, transforming robot that imprints on her like a baby duck.

Channeling the wardrobe of Joan Jett, Steinfeld’s performance exceeds the campy restraints of the Saturday-morning-cartoon-turned-movie genre. Fresh from voicing Gwen in “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse,” Steinfeld now joins the ranks of women whose characters don’t require makeup or medical attention in a sci-fi film. Steinfeld takes the Transformer snatch-tuck-and-roll, body slams and ear-blowing explosions like a champ. Or rather, like Sigourney Weaver and Linda Hamilton. After losing her father suddenly, Charlie is morose and depressed and gives up on an Olympic-diver dream, which will come in handy later in the film. Charlie forms a really strong bond with Bee because she has no friends though her nerdy neighbor, Memo, played by the super cute and gloriously afro’d, Jorge Lendeborg, Jr. (“Spider-Man: Homecoming”), tries to get her attention. He gets more than he bargained for as the sidekick who gets shuttled around in the innards of a robot.

Subtle comedic moments are humorous and enhance the atmosphere of tenderness that has come to be associated with Bee. The cinematography and battle choreography are well-defined as the director has opted for quality over an eye-orgy of multiple Bots in combat.

Parents will feel validated by Charlie’s mom, Sally (Pamela Adlon). She refuses to coddle Charlie and gives her several reality checks about life despite her own despair over the loss of her husband. This mom isn’t naive or condescending about her daughter’s issues. She does fail to notice an 18-foot alien car-Bot in her garage but she redeems herself when she, her new hubby and the characteristically pesky little brother initiate a high-speed chase in the family car for a wonderfully reckless scene.

Finally, we have John Cena, whose overacting reminds us all that – while money doesn’t buy happiness – it sure does buy some fun time on a movie set. Cena seems to be having the most fun delivering hokey lines and scowling with full B-movie majesty. For fans of Cena, rest assured that he comes out on top and his picture-perfect jaw line is not wasted.

Though the film is blessed with Michael Bay’s production, he passed the director’s torch to “Kubo and the Two Strings” director, Travis Knight. Knight is an animator by trade and this is his first live-action film. Screenwriter and Razzie-nominated, Christina Dodson, has only written two D-movies but Bumblebee proves that underBots can save the day and change a franchise.

Transformer Fans: 5 out of 5 AutoBots.

See if you found all of the Bot Easter Eggs: https://www.gamespot.com/gallery/bumblebee-all-the-80s-transformers-easter-eggs-and/2900-2487/23/

Family Audiences: 5 out of 5 Decepticons

See if you found the other 80s Easter Eggs: https://ew.com/movies/2018/12/21/here-are-the-80s-movie-easter-eggs-hidden-in-bumblebee/

People who don’t care for Transformers, are sick of the exploitative nostalgia of your 80s childhood or who refuse to engage in the capitalism of youth at parental financial expense: 2 out of 5 DinoBots