'Bumblebee' kicks Transformers into a higher gear

Hailee Steinfeld stars in "Bumblebee."

(CNN)An old-fashioned girl-and-her-giant-robot story, "Bumblebee" is unexpectedly appealing, a "Transformers" prequel played at a much more modest pitch. Cleverly set in 1987 (when, incidentally, the toy-driven original animated series ended), this well-tuned vehicle leverages that nostalgia factor for all It's worth, especially in its pop-culture touchstones.

The film opens on the Autobots' home planet of Cybertron, where they're p