Bumblebee officially comes to theaters this weekend and critics have already crowned it the best Transformers movie ever made. It’s certainly true that Bumblebee’s focus on story and character sets it well above Michael Bay’s Transformers movies but that’s not exactly a high bar to leap. So instead of comparing Bumblebee to shamelessly trashy, over-the-top blockbusters, we should be celebrating the fact this was one of the best romantic comedies in recent memory.
Because if you ignore the intergalactic politics and fighting robots, it’s plain to see this movie was all about first love. Don’t believe us? Just look at how this movie perfectly replicates five essential rom-com tropes.
Rom-Com Trope #1: The Lovable Protagonist
All great teen rom-coms revolve around an outsider; a loner who simply doesn’t fit in with the world around them. Andie in Pretty in Pink. Kat in 10 Things I Hate About You. Lara Jean in To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. This protagonist must capture the angst that so many of us experienced during adolescence and fortunately, Bumblebee more than delivers in the form of Charlie, an 18-year-old Smiths-loving amateur mechanic who hits all the right notes of a beloved teen rom-com lead. The audience sees that the quirky-but-not-too-quirky Charlie is full of kindness, intelligence, and courage but she has isolated herself as a defense mechanism due to the trauma of her dad dying of a heart attack a few years earlier.
Rom-Com Trope #2: The Meet-Cute
Like so many teens, Charlie craves connection but is too scared to seek it out. But all of that changes when someone comes into her life and helps her rediscover what it means to fully trust in another being. We’re talking, of course, about her car, who is really a robot experiencing his own isolation after being sent to earth by Optimus Prime to establish a new base for the Autobots. Bumblebee is forced to hide in a mostly abandoned junkyard disguised as a 1967 Volkswagen and for years, he is completely ignored until one day, Charlie stumbles upon him and immediately decides this is the car for her.
This is a classic meet-cute, right up there with Emily heckling Kumail during his stand up set in The Big Sick or Jesse convincing Celine to get off the train with him in Before Sunrise. An iconic meet-cute requires a certain amount of fate to intervene on behalf of people who otherwise may have never interacted and that certainly applies to Bumblebee. Charlie and Bumblebee are two wandering souls inexplicably drawn together by the power of love in a junkyard in a small California beach town.
Rom-Com Trop #3: Falling in Love
When Charlie brings her new old car home, she is shocked to find out that it is actually a robot in disguise who lacks the ability to communicate. This would probably cause most people to quickly call up their local authorities or at least demand a refund but Charlie can sense that Bumblebee means no harm and the two end up immediately establishing a bond that is anything but platonic. From there, they quickly fall in love; they spend time at the beach together, they drive down the California coast, and they share an infite amount of passionate and longing looks.
They have both felt alone for so long and, finally, they feel a genuine connection and both help each other discover their true selves. With Bumblebee’s help, Charlie learns to embrace life again and not live in a state of fear and detachment. And with Charlie’s help, Bumblebee literally discovers his voice along with the courage to fight against the Decepticons. Plus, it certainly doesn’t hurt that the chemistry between the two is right up there with Rachel McAdams and Ryan Gosling in The Notebook. It’s beautiful to watch.
Two quick things to address here:
- Some will try to argue that Charlie has a human love interest in her neighbor Memo. But in reality, it’s pretty clear that while Memo is deeply into Charlie, she does not feel the same way. Sure, she kisses him on the cheek at one point but when he tries to hold her hand at the end of the movie, she politely declines. And honestly, just watch the way she looks at Bumblebee compared to Memo. It’s no contest.
- To be clear, Charlie and Bumblebee never actually kiss or do anything of that nature, primarily because it’s not entirely clear how that would work logistically (and partially because the world isn’t ready for a true human-robot love story). But true love isn’t defined by a kiss. It’s clear how these two feel about each other the moment Charlie tenderly caresses Bumblebee’s face in the garage. If that ain’t love, we don’t know what is. Moving on…
Rom-Com Trope #4: The Fall-Out
Anyone familiar with the rom-com formula knows that just when two characters have reached the peak of their feelings, external circumstances intervene and threaten to tear their love apart. And while this usually comes in the form of a jilted ex emerging from the shadows to wreak havoc (The Holiday) or a lie being revealed at the worst moment (How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days), Bumblebee wisely raises the stakes by having the potential fat of the planet get in the way. When the shady government officials discover Bumblebee’s existence, they take him away from Charlie and hand him over to Shatter and Dropkick, two Decepticons who torture Bumblebee and then seemingly leave him for dead.
Rom-Come Trope #5: Love Finds a Way
All hope seems lost but any rom-com die-hard knows that it ain’t over ’til it’s over. And luckily, Charlie is able to find Bumblebee just in time and literally bring him back to life so that he can fight Shatter and Dropkick before they alert the other Decepticons of the Autobots’ plan to establish a base on earth. It’s a wonderfully romantic sequence that shows just how much these two have grown in the time they’ve spent together. It’s a tribute to the enduring power of love, which can make us all the best version of ourselves.
Sadly, many rom-coms end on a bittersweet note (My Best Friend’s Wedding) and Bumblebee is no exception. Despite their feelings for each other being stronger than ever, the two do not yet get their happily ever after, as they both realize as much as they love each other, they are needed by others as well. Charlie returns to her family with a renewed appreciation for life while Bumblebee teams up with Optimus Prime to begin establishing the Transformers base on earth. However, before they part ways, they get to share a tender goodbye and their intense bond makes us certain that this is not the last time these two will cross paths. And hopefully, their next chapter will end with them riding off into the sunset, ready to build a life together.
Bumblebee, the best romantic comedy of the year, is out in theaters now.