If you’re jonesing for a transformer movie on the cheap, look no further. I’ve never actually seen a transformer movie, but if the story is two good looking leads with competitively awesome eyebrows prove themselves by heroically partnering with a tough, sentient robotic champion then this is what you’ve been waiting for.
Miles (Alex Nuestaedter) is a poor but talented motocross rider whose main competition is a rich d-bag who learned the behavior from his dad. Their downtrodden maid’s daughter Sara (Becky G (no, just G)) with the eyebrows and artistic aspirations has honed into a fine art sitting haughtily around while drawing simple images of women. This was my first clue that maybe she may not work well as a romantic lead opposite Miles. Nevertheless, they soon find themselves languidly running from the government-backed evil scientist on the hunt for his lost seventy million dollar puppy.
The puppy is the titular A-X-L, an acronym for Attack-Exploration-Logistics. Misspelling the acronym for coolness sake is bad enough, but making your super expensive, Evil Scientist-devised dog of war a barely paper trained puppy seems like an odd choice. The shiny, bouncy war puppy is saved by Miles and they quickly bond by playing chase (motocross bike versus jet propelled dog), “gnawing” on “bones” (grinding metal with sawblade canines), and “pulling on a rope” (hauling a big truck out of a rut). The puppy is about three times the size of Miles’ bike, growls impressively and is theoretically equipped with all manner of war machines. Still, it continually needs to be saved by a schooling challenged gearhead, and the most impressive thing it actually manages to do is hack a gas pump and ATM for his new buddies Miles and Sarah.
There are a ton of small, irritating problems, like putting supposedly underprivileged Miles into a shirt that looks like it cost the costuming department two or three hundred dollars. The kid supposedly works for his dad but all we see him do is hand dad a wrench and screw in a light bulb, then blow off work to play with his new puppy. Everyone carries around a fancy cell phone that never runs out of juice. The puppy seems to have been completely engineered by an IT nerd and his order barking figurehead boss. I felt a little lost now and then in the tidal wave of product placement and celebrations of banal personalities with marginal abilities.
I got this film because I wanted to watch something laughably bad, judging from the trailer. Imagine my irritation when I discovered it’s not terrible so I couldn’t really tee off on it like I wanted. It’s by no means a good film, being a cheap knockoff of a huge franchise. The acting is meh, the music is a little ridiculous, the sub-zero chemistry of the “romantic” leads is cringeworthy, the sets – especially the evil science lab – are rudimentary, and the underwhelming abilities of the titular hero is irritating. The film is also not horrible enough to mock. Dangit.
If you’re in the mood for something utterly unchallenging or surprising, or you want a story you’ve seen before and know you’ll enjoy, then this might be a decent popcorn film you can watch with your kids. This movie not only not Shakespeare, it’s never heard of Shakespeare, but it’s not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
AXL | Official Trailer [HD] | Open Road Films