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And be sure to watch the riotous series exploring the history of the group.

Oh, dear. #TransformerFail

I truly loved the first Transformers movie. It was everything you need in a big summer explosion movie, with stupendous special effects, shot through with heart-thumping adrenaline, with just enough character and storyline to allow us to catch our breath and keep us interested. Our hero, high school senior Sam (Shia LeBeouf), is befriended by a car that turns into a friendly robot called Bumblebee, one of a cadre of good-guy transforming robots who fight against the bad-guy robots, called Decepticons. He is aided by a beautiful girl who is very good with cars (Megan Fox) and an armed services division led by Captain Lennox (Josh Duhamel).

This sequel has some great special effects, but the story and the characters are poorly handled and the pacing is a mess. When the robots give a better performance than the humans, we have a problem. When the action is so complicated we can’t figure out who is where and in some cases why they are there, we have a bigger problem. When the characters are so irritating we begin to consider rooting for the bad guys, well, you know what kind of a problem we have. And when the racial humor gets so completely out of hand that it becomes uncomfortable at best and genuinely disturbing at worst, it’s a serious problem.

LeBoeuf is always appealing, Fox looks good stretching over machinery, and the movie briefly takes an interesting turn when both human and transformer characters show that they can learn from their mistakes and switch over to the side of the good guys. A stop at the Smithsonian’s Air and Space Museum leads to Jetfire, an engaging junkpile of an autobot.

But it is too loud and it all goes on much too long. The bloated running time is well over two hours, overstuffed with pointless and increasingly annoying attempts at comedy — Sam’s mother accidentally gets high and talks about his sex life, Sam’s father doesn’t get high but talks about his sex life, good guy robots talk like the end men on a minstrel show, and Sam’s college roommate is a loudmouth who wants to get with some ladies and shrieks like a little girl when he is scared, which happens a lot. There’s another series of confrontations between a clueless bureaucrat and our know-better heroes. But the last movie’s clueless bureaucrat somehow switches sides. I would complain that this is not adequately explained, but I don’t really care. By this point, I began to think the Decepticons might have a point about how they could do better with our planet than we could.

Opening this week are “Amelia,” with Hillary Swank as the famous aviator, Amelia Earhart, “Astro Boy,” an animated film based on the classic Japanese character, and “Cirque du Freak,” based on the popular series of books by Darren Shan. Stay tuned for my reviews!

If you saw Where the Wild Things Are this week and loved it — or if your children are too young for it but want to enjoy Sendak on film, try the Sendak collection from my favorite Scholastic Storybook series. It includes not only the title story but other Sendak favorites like “In the Night Kitchen” and the wonderful Nutshell classics that teach letters (“Alligators All Around”), numbers (“One Was Johnny”), and the months (“Chicken Soup with Rice”) to wonderful songs by Carole King. Our family favorite was the one about Pierre, who learned not to say “I don’t care!”