With a toddler in the house, I don’t get out to the movies like I used to. Heck, I don’t even get a chance to sit down and watch a flick at home. If the kid isn’t scaling her kitchen play set like she’s Spider-Man, she’s diving into the diaper pail like she’s trying out for Ryan Dunn’s vacant spot in the Jackass squad.

Make no mistake: you have to be a sadomasochist to want to be a parent. Even as I’m writing this paragraph, I’ve had to get out of my seat three times. I’ve said, “No.” I’ve said, “Get down.” I’ve even sung the theme song to Caillou, but none of the safe words seem to work. And so the beatings continue.

Speaking of BDSM, Michael Bay’s latest Transformers flick is getting pummelled by the critics. While the negative reviews were to be expected, the glee with which the critics have torn into Dark of the Moon has been completely unexpected. Take Roger Ebert’s review for example. Here’s what the Chicago Sun-Times critic had to say: “Michael Bay’s Transformers: Dark of the Moon is a visually ugly film with an incoherent plot, wooden characters, and inane dialogue. It provided me with one of the more unpleasant experiences I’ve had at the movies.”

The New York Times‘ A.O. Scott did Ebert one better, proclaiming, “I can’t decide if this movie is so spectacularly, breathtakingly dumb as to induce stupidity in anyone who watches, or so brutally brilliant that it disarms all reason. What’s the difference?”

But no one was quite as brutal as Peter Travers of Rolling Stone: “Transformers: Dark of the Moon … is a movie bereft of wit, wonder, imagination, and any genuine reason for being. Watching it makes you die a little inside.”

Even the few reviewers praising the film, do so back-handedly. “In food terms, Dark of the Moon is like going to TGI Friday’s and ordering everything on the menu and then going to Krispy Kreme and doing it again,” Andrew O’Hehir of Salon wrote. “It’s not worth doing, it’ll definitely make you sick, and a lot of it will taste bad, but as a performance-art act of juvenile id-fulfillment, it’s magnificent.”

O’Hehir added, “It’s a momentous achievement and it will make untold amounts of money and you should see it even though it’s hateful and empty and preaches the worst kind of reactionary violence without even really meaning it.”

So, of course, I had to see it.

And, well, it’s perfectly fine summertime fare. The humor is crass, the slow-mo action is pretty doggone badass, and the plot is surprisingly coherent compared to other Michael Bay movies. I give it two riding crops to the backside.

But I’ve got to say that the central conflict — an alien race intends to take over Earth and enslave humanity — is one of those clichés that we’d be better off without. Why? Well, if history has taught us anything, it’s not the invaders we need to worry about it, it’s the missionaries.

See, with an invading force you know what you’re up against and you know how the game is played — you fight them to the death or you end up licking their boot heels. But, when it comes to missionaries — whether they are spreading a religion, the virtues of a democracy, or the tenets of communism — and their contact with naive native populations, they end up harming, sometimes destroying, the very people they intend to teach. It happened in Africa. It happened in India. It happened in Hawaii. And it’s happening right now in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Which is why I don’t have a problem with our neighbors south of the border entering the U.S. under less than legal pretences, and I see no reason for why the S.C. General Assembly passed an Arizona-style anti-illegal immigration bill and Gov. Nikki Haley signed it. After all, the illegals aren’t here to teach us a lesson. They aren’t here to show us a better way. They aren’t here to save our souls. They’re here to work and live and, ultimately, to assimilate into the larger American culture. They don’t want to transform our culture. They want to be transformed by it.

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