Herbie Fully Loaded
R E V I E W   B Y   R I C H   C L I N E dir Angela Robinson
scr Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar
with Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon, Justin Long, Breckin Meyer, Cheryl Hines, Jimmi Simpson, Jill Ritchie, Thomas Lennon, Jeremy Roberts, EE Bell, Scoot McNairy
release US 22.Jun.05, UK 5.Aug.05
05/US Disney 1h41

The big race: Herbie, Long and Lohan

lohan keaton dillon

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Herbie Fully Loaded The original The Love Bug (1968) was one of the seminal films of my childhood, and I loved the three 1970s sequels in decreasing levels as I realised that they were just getting sillier. Or maybe I was growing up. So a return to the character was something I couldn't miss. And I was pleasantly surprised; yes, it's silly, but it's also thoroughly engaging.

As the third-generation of a race-driving champion dynasty, Maggie (Lohan) is forbidden by her single dad (Keaton) from driving--because she's a girl, she's just like her dead mother, and Dad can't lose her too. But Maggie's brother (Meyer) isn't really up to winning the title. Resigned to being a sports journalist instead, Maggie is pulled back into racing by her graduation present, a beat-up VW Bug named Herbie, who has a mind of his own. With lovelorn mechanic Kevin (Long), Maggie and Herbie take on cocky Nascar champ Dillon in the big race.

As if there's even a split second of suspense. We know what will happen, simply because the scenario is from the Disney Mix-and-Match Plot Library. So we need to find something else to enjoy, and that's, quite simply, Lohan. She's flat-out wonderful, drawing a strong character we can identify with, and generating superb chemistry with her costars (including the car) that not only communicate realistic relationships but avoid the cliches of the genre. Her costars are also good--holding back just when their characters approach the edge of triteness. Except Herbie, who is far too expressive and ludicrously gravity-defying for words.

Besides the predictable storyline (which at least benefits from lively dialog and direction), the film's weakest element is its over-indulgence in wacky effects. Where everything else stays just within the bounds of (relative) believability, Herbie literally stomps on any good will he earns by jumping, flipping and loop-the-looping all over the place. Not to mention smirking and boinging. Taken back a notch, he would have been much more endearing. Although even this excess can't wreck a winning and genuinely exciting romp.

cert U themes, suspense 1.Aug.05

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
send your review to Shadows... Herbie Fully Loaded Nina Wallestad, Minneapolis: "Our daughter Sonya became so attached to Herbie -- on the level that a little girl adores puppies, kittens and horses. So, when the more ominous scenes came, she was afraid to the point of tears for our little hero. She couldn't bear to watch the demolition derby scene, and buried her head in my shoulder, sobbing. I had to continually remind her that it was just a movie, and that Herbie would be fine in the end. Just a warning to those parents with soft-hearted children." (5.Aug.05)
2005 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall