Herbie was first brought to the big screen in 1968’s The Love Bug. The lovable, expressive car won over audiences and numerous Herbie adventures followed. Never failing to dig deep for a movie idea, Disney has brought Herbie back to the cineplex in Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Before I get crackin’ on the full review, let’s take inventory of the ingredients we are dealing with here. Lindsay Lohan, music star, movie star, and beloved by millions of adolescent girls, takes the lead role as Maggie Peyton. Matt Dillon, hot off the recent success of the fantastic Crash, is Trip Murphy, the arch-enemy Nascar driver. Michael Keaton, returning to the screen after the disastrous White Noise, is Ray Peyton Sr., head of the household and Peyton Racing team leader hoping to get back to the top of the Nextel standings with his son, Ray Jr. (Meyer), at the wheel. Was I the only expecting flashy Lohan dance numbers and completely phoned-in performances from Dillon and Keaton?
Color me shocked that this is actually a quite enjoyable family film. Perhaps it is a nice retreat from the animated films of late, or, perhaps like the youngsters in attendance, I was engaged in the loony special effects and energetic tone (not to mention complete disregard for the laws of physics). The film is formula with a capital F, but the high-energy ridiculousness propels it to victory.
Maggie Peyton (Lohan) has just graduated high school. Her father, Ray Sr. (Keaton) and brother, Ray Jr. (Meyer), are heavily involved with the Peyton race team. Simply put, Ray Jr. is a lousy driver and stands no chance of helping the team get back atop the Nextel standings. Maggie has a gift for street racing, but Ray Sr. has forbidden it ever since a tragic accident that took Maggie’s mother’s life.
For her graduation present, Ray Sr. offers to buy Maggie a car. To the junkyard they go, and Maggie ends up with Herbie, the lovable 1963 Bug. At first Herbie acts like the sinister offspring of Stephen King’s Christine, but soon enough Maggie and Herbie trust one another. Thrown into the mix is Kevin (Long), a mechanic who would rather work on Maggie than Herbie. It’s rated G, folks.
Things get dicey when Maggie and Herbie end up beating Nextel champ Trip Murphy (Dillon) in a street race. Why Murphy would become obsessed with beating a 63 Bug in a street race rematch is anyone’s guess, but Maggie and Herbie have bigger aspirations – to compete in a Nextel race!
Herbie: Fully Loaded is colorful and packed with energy and slapstick humor. In my older age, I can’t say that I am the best judge of what entertains kids anymore. I was part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, so not only have times changed, but additionally I have no room to talk. At screenings like these I pay close attention to how kids respond to what’s on screen. Contrasting greatly to the sleeping and overall boredom during Are We There Yet?, kids appeared to be eating this film up. They loved Herbie’s expressions (all he can really do is smile or pout, however) and were positively thrilled with the climactic race at California Speedway.
The cast clearly lifts the film above straight-to-video fare, with Dillon hamming it up big-time as the spit-worthy Murphy. His racing facility resembles that of Dr. Evil’s underground lair and I was sensing some serious tongue-in-cheek humor. Keaton gets the job done in a very undemanding role, but it is Lohan that really excels and brings some life to Maggie. She is playing just a normal girl instead of one of these New Yorker teeny dream girls that don’t exist in reality. Sure the film lives on its fantasy, but Lohan is a great entertainer for the young ones and her energy was contagious to the youngsters in attendance.
Herbie: Fully Loaded should get the job done as a diversion for the kids. Parents may find themselves a bit bored, although there is at least one piece of innuendo that had me concealing evil laughter, but there have been far more painful specimens released to theaters even just this year. Indeed, color me shocked.
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures
Length: 101 Minutes
Theatrical Release: June 22, 2005
Directed by: Angela Robinson
Written by: Thomas Lennon & Ben Garant & Alfred Gough & Miles Millar. Story by Lennon & Garant. Characters by Gordon Buford.
Cast: Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon, Breckin Meyer, Justin Long, Cheryl Hines