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Herbie: Fully Loaded Review

By Shawn McKenzie 06/22/2005

I recently wrote in my review of the movie The Perfect Man that Hilary Duff should get the same agent as Lindsay Lohan, so she can stop making such bad movies.  Herbie: Fully Loaded, despite being rated G (I had said Duff should try to be in movies above a PG), is further proof that Lohan must have a good agent, because this was an enjoyable movie for the whole family.

Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) is a girl who has just graduated from college and is planning to take a road trip with her best friend Charisma (Jill Ritchie) to New York to work for ESPN as an associate producer.  This makes her dad, Ray Peyton Sr. (Michael Keaton), happy, because he doesn’t want to see Maggie in an accident again.  Maggie had been a talented street racer years ago, but after the accident, Ray Sr. insisted that Maggie get out of racing and into another job.  It’s a little hard for her to resist though, especially since her grandfather Joe was a champion racer, and Ray Sr. owns a racing team which Maggie’s brother, Ray Jr. (Breckin Meyer), competes in NASCAR events, so she can’t exactly shake off those racing instincts.  Ray Jr., a.k.a. “In the Way Ray” (a nickname given to him by the other racers), isn’t a very good racer though, and Team Peyton’s sponsorships are drying up.  In fact, one of the only sponsors left, Bass Pro Shops, represented by Sally (Cheryl Hines), is threatening to pull out unless he can win more races on the racing circuit.  Despite his problems, Ray Sr. takes Maggie to a junkyard called Crazy Dave’s Scrap & Salvage to pick out a car that they can fix up for a graduation present.  It just so happens that a certain 1963 Volkswagen Bug with a stripe down the middle and the number “53” on the front of it is in that junkyard.  This is no ordinary car though…it is the one and only Herbie!  After being a champion racing car for almost 30 years, Herbie (vocalized by Scott Martin Gershin) has fallen into hard times and is currently rusting away in the junkyard.  He isn’t suicidal though, and that very day, Crazy Dave (Jeremy Roberts) has scheduled Herbie to be squashed in the crusher.  As Herbie is close to being flattened, Maggie looks around for a sports car that she can buy.  Herbie finagles his way into taking out his competition (he manages to squash the Nissan she had chosen) and charms his way into her interests.  She pays Crazy Dave $75 and has it hauled home.  After Ray Sr. fixes it up, Maggie tries to drive it.  She discovers a note in the glove compartment written by someone named “Max Simpson” that reads, “Please take care of Herbie.  Whatever your problem, he’ll help you find the answer.”  Herbie then takes Maggie on a joyride, without her driving assistance, and ends up in a local garage where her former high school friend Kevin (Justin Long) just happens to be working.  Kevin is a gifted car customizer, and he helps Maggie customize Herbie.  While taking Herbie out for a spin, Herbie kidnaps them and takes them to a local car show where racing champion Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon) and his posse, including crony Crash (Jimmi Simpson) and brother/manager Larry (Thomas Lennon), have shown up to make a surprise visit (and hawk his new video game Trip Murphy: Undefeated.)  Herbie gets Maggie into Max’s old racing gear he’s been holding onto in his trunk, and she poses as “Max” (so that she can conceal her real identity.)  Herbie picks a fight with Trip’s #82 racing car by scraping his side window alongside it, which results in a street race between Trip and “Max.”  Herbie and Maggie win the race, and the very ticked-off Trip insists on a rematch.  She says no…at first (it was supposed to be a one-time thing.)  Team Peyton is still struggling though, and she sees an ad in the paper for the Sudden Death Showdown with a $10,000 prize.  She agrees to the rematch for the prize, but Trip wants to play for pinks (which means whoever wins gets the losers car.)  Before the race, Trip tries to find out what Herbie has under the hood, so he lets Maggie drive his car while he checks out Herbie behind her back.  That doesn’t help Trip out much (he begins to think that Herbie is possessed), but Herbie gets jealous, and during the Showdown, Herbie loses the race on purpose.  Trip sells Herbie to Jimmy D. (Patrick Cranshaw), who uses the car in his demolition derby.  Maggie manages to find Herbie, and after escaping a face-off against a monster truck driver (Jim Cody Williams), Jimmy gives her the car back.  Meanwhile, the NASCAR Nextel Cup race at the California Speedway was supposed to feature Ray Jr., who surprisingly qualified for the race, but after injuring himself, his doctor (Amy Hill) tells him that he has a depth perception problem.  Ray Jr. suggests that Maggie should take his place, but Ray Sr. won’t hear of it.  Besides…she won’t race in anything other than Herbie, and he is a little worse for wear following the demolition derby.  With Kevin and his friends turning Herbie into a NASCAR version fit for professional racing and Maggie donning the Max persona once again, Maggie and Herbie try to see if they can help Team Peyton escape financial ruin, and maybe regain a little bit of their confidence back.

I loved the Herbie movies when I was a kid.  The first movie, 1969’s The Love Bug, introduced the world to the cute little car.  The movie starred Dean Jones as the discoverer of the car who uses it to win races (Herbie uses him to win races as well.)  It was followed by 1974’s Herbie Rides Again, 1977’s Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, and 1980’s Herbie Goes Bananas.  Jones starred in only one of the sequels (Monte Carlo), but he also starred in a short-lived 1982 CBS TV series “Herbie, the Love Bug” and appeared in a 1997 ABC TV movie remake of the original starring Bruce Campbell.  I saw all of the movies (even the TV movie; I never saw the TV series though) and I liked them all.  There’s just something about the spunky little car that makes you smile.

Lohan and Herbie carry this movie (yes…the car carries it; it has so much personality that I wonder if it has a SAG card.)  Though I do hope to see Lohan in more adult movies, like last year’s hilarious Mean Girls, she’s great in this one.  Apparently, she is the go-to girl for Disney remakes, having appeared in three of them herself (1998’s The Parent Trap, 2003’s Freaky Friday, and this one), but the talented actress hasn’t yet been typecast…as long as she takes on different, non-Disney roles.  Herbie is the same old Herbie…with a little bit of CGI assistance.  Physically, I was glad that they didn’t do a “Pimp My Ride” treatment when they fixed him up.  Aside from a new spoiler, he looks like the same old Herbie we all know and love.

As for the rest of the cast, they do their jobs well.  The last time I saw Keaton in anything memorable was 1996’s Multiplicity, but he downplays any potential wackiness here though.  Long keeps playing the same goofy character, a version of Warren Cheswick from NBC’s “Ed,” in every movie, and for some reason, it always works for me.  Dillon gets to play a comedic bad guy again, and even if he isn’t as good as his Pat Healy character from There’s Something About Mary, he’s still fun in this one.  I love Meyer in his comedic roles, but he is barely in this one.  The same thing goes for Hines, who might as well be just credited as a “special appearance by.”  I was hoping that they were going to make her a love interest for Keaton’s character, since Maggie’s mom died years ago, but I guess they wanted to concentrate on the young people.

I also want to address the controversy over the supposed digital “breast reduction” that they had to do for Lohan in the movie.  Apparently, at a test screening, some parents felt like her character was too busty and revealingly dressed for a children’s film.  They had to go in and digitally alter her appearance by raising her necklines and reducing her chest by two cup sizes.  I would think that she would be offended by this movie manipulation, but I haven’t heard anything otherwise.  When I saw a screening for the movie last week, I didn’t notice anything different on her.  She seemed fully bosomed onscreen to me.  Besides…the only thing that kids will care about is Herbie.

Angela Robinson, whose debut film was D.E.B.S. from earlier this year, directed Herbie: Fully Loaded.  I haven’t seen her first movie, but from what I’ve heard, it wasn’t very good.  Apparently, she must have struck gold with her sophomore effort, because this movie was great.  It’s been a long time since I’ve seen a Herbie movie, but watching it brought back all of those memories of the original four movies.  I would welcome more of them too.  They don’t have to star Lohan again (though it would be cool if she appeared in a cameo, along with Jones), but I think that they would continue to be fun.  As I said earlier, I hope that Lohan continues to push boundaries, but apparently, her agent did a good job getting her into this movie.


Get the soundtrack featuring songs by Lindsay Lohan, Mark McGrath, Josh Gracin, The Donnas, and more:

Get the Herbie the Love Bug Collection on DVD:

Get the Disney Interactive Game Boy Advance video game:

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