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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Ah, The Love Bug. I have fond memories of watching this movie as a youngster during a local theater Summer Movie Days a long time ago. The theater would run two or three full-length family films back-to-back, and my parents would drop me off with a couple of my friends to spend the afternoon in a nice, cool theater throwing popcorn at each other.
Along with other summers of my youth favorites like The Incredible Mr. Limpet, Hot Lead and Cold Feet, and Condorman, The Love Bug was a favorite because it involved race cars, a dastardly villain, cool stunts, and a great little Volkswagen with personality named Herbie. Watching it again brought back all those fun memories, and I was pleasantly surprised to see my 4-year-old son enjoying the movie as much as I was.
I assume that you have probably seen at least one of the many Herbie movies, and are familiar with the history behind the lovable little Bug. However, for those that may not quite remember this initial movie, Dean Jones stars as a down-on-his luck race car driver named Jim Douglas, who reluctantly teams up with Herbie and gets back into the car racing circuit. Douglas thinks his sudden winning streak is due to his skill, but his sculptor roommate Tennessee Steinmetz (played by Buddy Hackett), insists that there is more to Herbie than the eye can see.
Just as Douglas begins to finally realize what Herbie is all about, a rather underhanded rival racecar driver (and the person who sold Herbie in the first place) played by David Tomlinson (Mr. Banks in Mary Poppins), plots to steal Herbie for himself. Of course, the movie builds up to a big two-day race that pits the two competitors head-to-head, with the ultimate prize being Herbie. It is simply classic Disney family entertainment that both young and old can thoroughly enjoy together.
As with the recently reviewed 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea DVD set, The Love Bug was also intended to be marketed as a Vault Disney collection title, but had the collection name dropped at the last minute. If there is any question, the list of bonus material in the sidebar should be an indication of this set's lineage. Between the two discs, you will find everything you ever wanted to know about Herbie and the gang and you will not be able to get that catchy 1960s racing theme music out of your head.
Disc One simply features the movie, the animated short Susie The Little Blue Coupe, and an audio commentary by Buddy Hackett, Dean Jones and Michele Lee. The animated short is cute, and fits in with the theme of the feature movie perfectly. As for the commentary, this one is much less formal and structured than 20,000 Leagues, which leads to some tangential conversations between the actors, especially Hackett. Overall, it is an interesting and entertaining look back at the movie with insights from the stars, but I found myself occasionally wondering when they were going to return to the topic of the movie or a particular scene.
As with all of the other Vault Disney titles, the bulk of the goodies reside on Disc Two. There are several entertaining and informative featurettes, as well as the requisite and extensive production galleries, audio-only features, theatrical trailer, and Disney Studio Album. The featurettes and documentaries on this set are not quite as extensive as some of the other Vault Disney titles, but after watching the following ones, you will have the scoop on just about every aspect of The Love Bug:
Altogether, it is a nice goodie package for this classic family movie, and I cannot think of anything that they missed. My only complaints are identical to those I voiced in my 20,000 Leagues review: Disc One still has autoplay previews, and the DVD insert is a cheesy one-page listing of the movie's chapter stops. As before, both of these are relatively minor annoyances but should in no way dissuade you from your decision to buy the set.
The Video, Audio and Interface
I have been uniformly impressed with the restoration efforts on the past Vault Disney titles, and this transfer does not generally disappoint either. While still exhibiting an occasional artifact of age, like a dust blip here or there, the restored and remastered anamorphic widescreen video transfer is clean and sharp throughout the movie. The colors seemed to be a little lighter in a few scenes than I had expected, but they are not washed out to the point of distraction. Even with those very minor criticisms, the picture should look good on just about anybody's home theater system, especially given that the movie is almost 35 years old.
Along with the cleaned up video, the audio has also been restored and remasterd. As with just about any movie made more than 15 years ago, the soundtrack is just not as dynamic as a modern theatrical soundtrack designed for surround sound. In some cases of remastering an old mono or stereo movie into a 5.1 mix, the dialog and ambient audio tend to sound artificially distributed around the various speakers. Fortunately, as with 20,000 Leagues, this new Dolby Digital 5.1 mix is nicely balanced and natural, and if anything, it is a bit center speaker heavy. On most systems, though, the movie will sound quite acceptable.
The interfaces on both of these discs are perfectly suited for the content. Disc One features plenty of animated menus and transitions, and, as I mentioned earlier, the opening menu features Herbie's spunky racing music, which will stick with you long after the movie is over. Disc Two is structured identically to the other Vault Disney discs, with the vault theme, and even though there are six DVDs with this same interface, it is still fun to use and look at.
Both of these interfaces are great ways to get into the tone and feel of the movie and bonus material, and I commend the efforts exerted to make these discs a little bit more fun and special than the others, as they should be.
The Final Evaluation
If you are looking for a family movie that everyone will enjoy and a DVD packed with extras, then this set is definitely for you. The movie looks good, sounds pretty good, and is quite entertaining, and just about all your questions about Herbie will be answered somewhere among the seven or so featurettes, extensive still galleries, audio features, or commentary. Like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, you can usually find this set for about $18 at a warehouse store near you, and at that price, this is a great deal and one that should not be missed.
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