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'Transformers' sequel sputters with moronic ethnic tone

As the first movie I gave an F to, Transformers holds a specialplace in my heart.

"Heart" might be the wrong piece of anatomy, actually. It's probablyin one of those organs that you don't really know what they do andthey're filled with a vile liquid that should never be exposed to thelight of day. Because it was awful. Handing down a harsh, harshjudgment upon it, however, was quite the opposite.

-- Trailer, times, theaters.

-- Read Mr. Movie's review.

And you know what? I learned a little bit about myself, too -- that Ishould never be a teacher, because those kids would never come homewith anything higher than a D-. The laughter that would provide mewould need to be very good medicine indeed to cope with the beatingsI'd catch from parents of 17-year-old third graders repeating mypottery class for the ninth time. Despite the undeniable pleasure thatcomes from judging the hell out of something, and the massive chanceI'd get to do so again with my little F's sequel, Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen, I have to admit it was a long drive to thetheater that day.

Two years after their defeat, the Decepticons are on the run anddwindling in number. Their only hope lies in stealing a shard of theAll-Spark -- the artifact that grants life to TransFormers -- andresurrecting their dead leader, Megatron.

Shia LaBeouf, meanwhile, is heading off to college, where he'sexperiencing strange visions of symbols. Unknown to him, these are thekeys Megatron needs to unleash his ancient master, bring theDecepticons to dominance and wreck up the entire world.

And wreck up they do. Unfortunately, it's surprisingly hard to tellwho is whaling hell out of who when the TransFormer designs are thiscluttered, awkward, and uniconic. The Decepticons are so spiky andchunky their fights with the AutoBots are akin to a silverware drawerdoing battle with a used car lot.

This is trouble, because ferocious action scenes are really allTransformers: Revenge of the Fallen has going for it. It'scertainly not getting anywhere with its confused, subplot-heavy storyor its deranged sense of humor, a frantic, hectic, screechingjoke-delivery system that's far more puzzling than it is funny. Forinstance, director Michael Bay appears to believe making his robotsbehave like obvious ethnic stereotypes is endlessly hilarious.

Who can blame him! You know why Scotland's never accomplishedanything? Because everyone there is too busy laughing at their ownaccents to get anything done. Italian-Americans get some love,too -- and at this point it's a fair question to ask if a movie can beracist when it dumps on all races equally -- yet I can't help wondering,if only for a moment, if there's something wrong with the way the"black" Transformers are essentially a jive-talking 21st centuryminstrel show with giant gold teeth who can't read.

The very act of describing that has made me feel insane, which mayexplain why, for all its miscalculations, frivolous idiocy (the scenethat really drove this home for me: the one where the giantpseudo-Scottish robot-monster craps out a parachute), and generalno-goodness, Revenge of the Fallen couldn't drive me to thesame heights of hatred the first one did.

That could be a simple case of the most potent force in theuniverse -- diminished expectations. When you expect suck, evenconcentrated doses of suckage don't suck so bad. This is why I tellall my Internet girlfriends I weigh 1,200 pounds. When they find outI'm a svelte 1,165, I'm gold.

But setting the bar so low for itself doesn't explain it all. Exceptfor the moronic ethnic stuff, Revenge of the Fallen isn't sogratingly obnoxious or cynically targeted to the x-treme sensibilityas its predecessor. With this franchise, "just kinda bad" is a bigstep up from "abominable trainwreck."

Grade: C-

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