A Girl and Her Car
At last, I can finally use that old cliché, “a wild ride,” in a movie review without feeling like a hack. Herbie: Fully Loaded more than lives up to those all-too-familiar words. Whether racing through an auto junkyard, California city streets or a demolition arena, Herbie and Lindsay Lohan, who plays the whimsical VW Beetle’s new owner, take viewers along on their speedy and hilarious drives.
Director Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.), who’s been a Herbie fan since childhood, became excited about the film as soon as she read the script. “I thought the writers had found an amazing new angle to make Herbie very fresh for today’s audiences by creating this spirited young woman who wants to be a NASCAR driver, and who also becomes the only person who can help Herbie get back to the racetrack and fulfill his destiny,” she says.
Lohan (Mean Girls) brings her trademark energy and comic timing to the role of Maggie Peyton, the youngest member of a famous car racing clan. Maggie's problem? She loves racing, but her father (Michael Keaton) won’t let her drive, placing his faith instead in his son (Breckin Meyer), who isn’t doing too well at carrying on the family’s winning tradition.
As a college graduation present, Maggie’s dad gives her money to buy a cheap car for transportation, so she heads for the auto scrap yard. Thus begins a rather simple story: girl finds car, girl loses car, girl reclaims car -- and they both live happily ever after as racing legends. Of course, that little summary leaves out the tense father/daughter conflict as well as the fun -- and there’s plenty of the latter in Herbie: Fully Loaded.
Naturally, it’s the “Love Bug” who evokes most of the laughs here, especially when he interacts with Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon, very amusing in this “bad guy” role), an arrogant racing champion who can’t believe Herbie has beaten him. The magical car squirts oil at Trip and hits him by swinging open his doors or hood or trunk whenever he can. Herbie relates to others, including his new mechanic (Justin Long), Maggie’s very good friend, in various lifelike ways. He even flirts with a gorgeous yellow Beetle he takes a shine to.
Herbie’s special effects team deserves kudos for making Herbie seem so human. Included among his amazing tricks are rolling his headlight eyes back and forth, flipping his sun visors, and wagging his antenna.
“There are five to seven universal facial expressions, such as fear, sadness and joy, that are recognized the world over,” explains supervising puppeteer Robert Short. “I chose different eyebrow, bumper and body positions to convey each of these emotions Herbie was feeling.”
Herbie: Fully Loaded is a fitting comeback for a beloved movie icon from the 1960s. Fast-paced with nary a dull moment, this delightful comedy reminds us how important it is not to give up on our dreams.
(Released by Walt Disney Pictures and rated “G” as suitable for all ages. Reviewed after the Father’s Day Sneak Preview.)