The lovable bug is back with a sassy makeover, a fierce new owner and something to prove in the Disney film Herbie: Fully Loaded.
The new film finds the former “Love Bug” being dethroned from racing glory and sent to a scrap yard. That is, until he is purchased as a college graduation gift for Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan). The Peyton family has deep roots in the racing industry, but Maggie’s street-racing incidents have led her father, Ray Sr. (Michael Keaton), to keep her out of the driving dynasty. However, her brother, Ray Jr. (Breckin Meyer), is in the midst of a losing streak in his NASCAR series and is on the verge of losing sponsorship. In an attempt to keep Maggie mobile but not speedy, Ray Sr. buys her the beat-up Volkswagen.
As soon as Maggie gets behind the wheel she realizes this bug is far from ordinary. A note in the glove box reads, “Please take care of Herbie. Whatever your problems, he will help you solve them.” Herbie instantly proves that looks are deceiving, and he is one fast and mighty little car. Herbie forces Maggie to attend a car show where she accidentally gets into a street race with NEXTEL Cup Champion, Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon). The plot is set for the team of Maggie and Herbie to take on all challengers, save the family name and learn a valuable lesson.
Herbie is a cheery little film full of cheesy Disney-esque clichÃ©s and over-the-top antics. It manages to meet expectations of being a fun time but has serious plot problems and attains only mild laughs.
The film is obviously meant to be fantastical since the car has a personality and becomes one of the main characters. The car’s personality is revealed through his actions, and camera shots allow the audience to see through his eyes. Basically, it works. However, the fact that a bug is allowed to race in NASCAR and routinely beats performance cars is far-fetched and gets a bit redundant.
The few laughs come from Herbie’s behavior and even then warrant only a chuckle. While Pixar films such as Finding Nemo manage to make kid-friendly films with a few added jokes for the adults, Herbie lacks that magic blend of humor. Instead, the film seems to be solely for the tyke’s enjoyment.
The acting in the film was the best that could be expected from such frivolous roles and script. Lohan has a spark that makes the camera favor her. As in her many other Disney films, she is likable and much more conservative on screen than in her real-life appearances. Keaton does a satisfactory job, not adding much punch and just going through the motions. Dillon’s bad-guy role feels out of place. His performance feels as if it was done merely to fulfill contractual obligations.
Herbie: Fully Loaded is what is expected: a predictable, sappy, moral-infested film that is fun for the whole family. Most people over the age of 10 will walk out of the theater feeling like an hour of their life was spent on a film they will forget in five minutes. Lohan’s spirit and the car’s undeniable cuteness make the film tolerable, but another auburn beauty could easily surpass it this week at the box office.
Comedy, G, Running time: 92 min.