RATING |

Please don't call to complain about my negative review of "Transformers 2," because I can no longer hear.

Both eardrums were blown out somewhere in the 138th minute, when there were still 10 minutes to go, not counting the credits, which list 400 sound and special effects technicians and roughly 20 speaking parts, most of those occupied by machines that talk.

A shame, because there were signs in the "original" that Michael Bay was starting to understand the usefulness of arranging his FX extravaganzas around human characters and interesting ideas.

Shia LaBeouf was smart and winning as Sam Witwicky, the California teen who learns that a Camaro is more than a car - it's a machine with transformative powers that, if properly deployed, can get you a girl like Megan Fox.

The Camaro is back (along with a half-dozen other GM models) but Bay's budding story sense has completely vanished, or given way to his famous love of the bombastic: Anyone who shells out $10 for "Transformers 2" should be reimbursed under the new "cash for clunkers" program.

It's too long, it's too loud, it's full of stuff you've seen before, it's polluted with product placement (more corporate logos than a NASCAR jumpsuit), and full of pompous Hollywood self-regard (Bay plugs his own lousy movies).

And, on top of everything else, it's borderline racist. There are a couple of Chevy Aveos that transform into buck-toothed, shuckin' and jivin' hip-hop autobots that call each other "bitch" and are assigned lines like "We don't do much readin'." Whoa. These guys make "Star Wars' "Jar Jar Binks look cosmopolitan.

LaBeouf returns as Sam, this time off to college, separating (at least geographically) from his girlfriend (Fox), his parents, and the good-robot autobots, which are still fighting bad robot deceptacons popping up around the globe looking for a secret energy source that can fuel a bad-robot revolution and the destruction of Earth (ho-hum, another apocalypse).

Among the villains are government bureaucrats who want to mothball the good robots because they've outlived their usefulness - this is idiotic, since the first 20 minutes are given over to the destruction of Shanghai via a bad-robot eruption.

Just one example of the rampant nonsense, which Bay either ignores or treats as a joke - the movie does have a sense of humor, and at least one actor (can't say who) returns from the original in the right frame of mind to have fun with the goofy script.

LaBeouf is not one of them. The story forces him to play every scene at a frantic pitch - Sam's plagued by hallucinations and seizures, pursued by robots of every type, as his visions turn out to be the key to the location of the all-important energy source.

This may engage the diehard fan, someone who played with transformers as a boy and is still playing with them at 35, when he should be talking to girls. The movies' fear of the female is almost comical - Sam's dorm room encounter with a predatory girl who turns out to have a metal tail and metal tongue belongs in the Sexual Anxiety Hall of Fame.

Fox dons a low-cut top and giggles her way, in slow-motion, through the hourlong climax in the desert, when virtually all of the virtual hardware is deployed/destroyed, and we are asked to resurrect our favorite characters with our love, as if they were Tinkerbell.

It's the movie to see if the most important person in your life is Optimus Prime. If, like me, you think Optimus Prime is a Roman steakhouse, move on.