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The coming-of-age story — wrapped in a Transformers movie — is currently in theaters.

Alissa Wilkinson covers film and culture for Vox. Alissa is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and the National Society of Film Critics.

Metacritic score: 68

Bumblebee is technically the sixth movie in the Transformers series, and a prequel to the previous five. But where those movies are loud, bombastic action blockbusters, Bumblebee is something else altogether. Taking its cues from movies like E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial and The Iron Giant, it’s the 1980s-set tale of a lonely teen girl named Charlie (Hailee Steinfeld) who finds herself with a friendly yellow Transformer on her hands, one that turns into a VW Bug.

It still sounds corny, but in the hands of Travis Knight (whose previous film and directorial debut was the wonderful Kubo and the Two Strings), Bumblebee stays light on its feet. It incorporates cultural touchstones from the ‘80s — including some great music — while sticking to its main theme: that the friends we make when we’re young help us grow up and feel less alone.

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