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Alex Stroup, editor

Herbie: Fully Loaded

Lindsay Lohan's third Disney remake

Wednesday, June 22, 2005
by Alex Stroup, MousePlanet editor

Herbie: Fully Loaded raises all kinds of surprisingly deep philosophical questions. Questions such as:

  • If Herbie has a soul that animates the car, and pretty much every part of the car is replaced over the course of the movie, where does the soul reside?
  • If it is clear to the owners that Herbie is alive, what are the moral implications in the fact that Herbie's last owner apparently left him as scrap in a shed somewhere?
  • Considering that there are certain, well, proportions to Lindsay Lohan's performance that defy even a racing jumpsuit, how is it possible that anybody in the movie could think she's a man?

The movie doesn't actually address any of these questions, but they're sure to arise once your mind starts to wander, and wander it will. If you fall into any of these three categories, you should just skip this review and go see the movie: You're 5 years old; you can't help but giggle when a movie uses a “doing” sound effect in conjunction with a pratfall; or you are an absolute die-hard Herbie fan. For everybody else, seeing this movie is not such a good idea.

© 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

It is hard to know where to lay blame. Even though four screenwriters are credited, the writers apparently couldn't come up with a story that offers anything original, or even interesting. You're also likely unfamiliar with director Angela Robinson, who apparently landed this job on the basis of D.E.B.S., a small-budget, teen-lesbian, coming-out-comedy spy spoof that was released earlier this year and made less than $100,000 at the box office. So you'll be excused for not having seen that and therefore not being in a position to see flaws common to both movies, such as boring camera setups and maladroit action scenes.

Robinson does provide a couple moments of flair that hint at where the movie could have gone but never delivers on the promise. The opening titles use clips from the previous four movies and short-lived television series to document the rise and fall of Herbie the Love Bug. This sequence hints at giving the audience something more than an “isn't it cute” story of a Volkswagen Beetle winning a NASCAR race. It seems to suggest a human arc to the Herbie story, in which Herbie is an athlete past his prime trying to find the core that will allow him to excel again.

But then Herbie starts squirting people in the face with oil, Angela Robinson adds a few doings and aroogas to make it clear we should be amused, and off it all goes into the sunset of mediocrity and obviousness.

Despite the shoddy script and tepid directing, there is still more than enough blame to throw at the actors. Lindsay Lohan seems to give it a decent effort, but you can't help but get the feeling that she isn't sure why she's acting opposite a car, and if being in her third Disney remake is really going to help her transition to an adult acting career.

Playing Maggie Peyton, Lohan comes from a long line of stock car racers. After a street racing accident in high school, her father (Michael Keaton) will longer give a thought to her racing cars, and the family legacy falls to her older brother (Breckin Meyer), who simply isn't very good at it. Maggie buys Herbie from a scrapyard as a means of getting about town until leaving to start a career in New York City. She quickly learns that Herbie has a mind of his own and ends up taking him to an old high school friend Kevin (Justin Long, last seen as a dweeb in Dodgeball, now playing a heartthrob) for repairs. I'm sure you can see where that must inevitably lead. None of these three men show any desire to compete with a car for second billing, and must have all gone home glad that they really weren't asked to do much.

Maggie also learns that the family's financial situation is in bad shape, as they keep losing sponsors for not winning races. I'm sure you can see where that must inevitably lead.

Along the way to these obvious conclusions, Maggie and Herbie manage to earn the wrath of champion NASCAR racer Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon) when he is beaten by them in an impromptu street race. It is Matt Dillon who is most humiliated by his presence in this movie. Unlike Keaton, who is in only a few scenes, Dillon has a lot of work to do and doesn't do it well, chewing through the scenery one minute and apparently wondering if he needs a new agent in the next. It may be unfair to blame him since Angela Robinson shows so little sense of comic timing, but the whole thing is simply a mess.

© 2005 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All rights reserved.

What about Herbie? If you've seen the commercials or trailers (and if your home has electricity you certainly have), you may have been apprehensive that Herbie has been made into a CGI monster, thoroughly animated, completely severed from any basis in reality. Fortunately the trailer made this look worse than it is. Unfortunately, when CGI is used, it is both inappropriate and poorly done. Most of the emotional effects are achieved through mechanical means of blinking lights, a sagging bumper or aggressive windshield wiper placement. A bit over the top compared to the originals, but not too offensive.

Regardless, the kids in the audience at my screening absolutely loved him. They laughed at every gag and expression from Herbie. They weren't turned off when he drove up walls or rolled over like a dog. None of them were older than 10, however, and it is hard to imagine kids much older than that getting much from this movie. For the youngest set, though, there is nothing offensive, frightening, or intense; if there were a rating lower than G, Herbie: Fully Loaded would likely have earned it.

MousePlanet staff writer Lisa Perkis was also able to screen the movie with her two daughters, ages 8 and 10. Here are her comments.

So, what will kids think of Herbie? If they are around six and under, you might be getting requests to sneak into Madagascar. There are a few sight gags that might hold their interest for a few minutes, but most of the little kids in the theatre were more interested in picking up confetti from the El Capitan stage show than watching the movie. Herbie will hold the attention of most 7-13 year olds, and luckily kids that age will not spare any thought to the plausibility of Herbie’s antics. My eight year old had some major belly laughs over the sillier stunts; apparently cars squirting oil in grown-ups’ faces never gets old. My ten year old was reserved in her praise of the movie and rated it “not as good as Ice Princess or Princess Diaries 2.” However, she did comment favorably on Lohan’s red hair.

The good news is Herbie is pretty family friendly. The language is wholesome, Lohan keeps her shirt pulled down for the most part, and there are some nice scenes involving family unity and love. There were a few mildly intense moments during a demolition derby involving a smoke-spewing monster truck, but Lohan was not hurt. Matt Dillon, the films race car driving villain, was more comical than threatening The only aspect I was a bit disappointed with was how Lohan’s character Maggie lies outright to her father several times during the film about her whereabouts and activities and doesn’t seem very remorseful. Since everything ends happily in the film, Maggie did not have to face any consequences to her lies. Compared to some inappropriate tween movies I have seen recently, this seems like a small quibble, but it bothered me enough to talk about it with the girls after the film. Overall, my kids and I gave it a thumbs up; nothing earth-shattering, but a nice diversion to kick off the summer.

Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Alex here.


Herbie: Fully Loaded is a Walt Disney Picture release.


Alex Stroup is a degreed librarian with an undergraduate degree in history. An avid reader, movie buff, and devoted “information junkie,” Alex currently lives and works in the Northern California Bay Area. Alex is also the CEO of MousePlanet.

Click here to contact Alex.


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