Transformers [2004]

An entertaining amalgam of the Transformers toy line, 1980s animated series and the live-action film by Michael Bay, Transformers Animated: Transform and Roll Out updates the venerable robot warriors without losing their core appeal to younger viewers. Sold as a feature film but actually the first three episodes of the Transformers Animated TV series, Transform and Roll Out re-imagines the Autobots as a misfit crew led by an untested Optimus Prime (voiced by David Kaye), who find the Allspark (the key to the Transformers' power) while clearing the way for a space bridge. The discovery brings the Decepticons on their trail, and the five Autobots (who include Bumblebee, Ratchet, Bulkhead and Prowl) decide to cool their jets for a half-century in Lake Erie. The action flashes forward when the Allspark is found by young Sari Sumdac (Tara Strong), whose scientist dad Isaac (Tom Kenney) is having some trouble with his robotic experiments, namely a monstrous cyber-cockroach that threatens Detroit. The heroes come to the rescue of humanity, but their actions also bring the villainous Starscream (also Kenney) to Earth for a crowd-pleasing Autobot-Decepticon showdown. As with any revival of an established and well-loved storyline, there's much to quibble over in Transformers Animated--there are fewer players on the board (though the number of Transformers increases over the course of the series), and the change in the characters' origins may raise some hackles among longtime fans (the manic Sari may also be an acquired taste). But as pure rock-em-sock-em action, Transformers Animated delivers the goods, which should satisfy newcomers to the Transformers' world, and also displays a welcome sense of humor. The latter gets a fun showcase in the two animated shorts which make up the DVD extras, the best of which pits Optimus Prime against an inquisitive classroom of children. --Paul Gaita

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