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Herbie: Fully Loaded
2005 - G - 101 Mins.
Director: Angela Robinson
Producer: Robert Simonds
Written By: Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, Alfred Gough and Miles Millar
Starring: Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon, Breckin Meyer and Justin Long
Review by: Bill King
Official Site: disney.go.com/disneypictures/herbie/
   

I didn't think a Volkswagen Beetle would be such a dude magnet.
I have never seen any of the previous Herbie movies, starting with 'The Love Bug' in 1968. One of the things I like about 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' is its complete independence from those earlier entries. The filmmakers understood that Herbie is not synonymous with the current Disney canon of characters. He had his time in the spotlight a long time ago, and subsequent appearances by the Volkswagen Beetle have passed into memory. Now comes this modern version, which will attract a new group of fans by using up-to-date special effects and teen star Lindsay Lohan.

This is the kind of family movie that I can appreciate. Defenders of 'The Adventures of Shark Boy & Lava Girl' say that kids enjoyed it in theaters, so dissenting opinions aren't valid. Well, kids will like anything with colorful scenery and weird characters, so their enjoyment of a movie is not a reliable measuring stick. A movie is either poorly made or it isn't; 'Shark Boy' belongs in the first category. 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' is among the better of the current wave of family movies. It actually has a good script to work off of, and the humor is derived more from the car's antics rather than bathroom jokes.

The only real obstacle that stands in our way is our willingness to accept that Herbie has a mind of its own. I don't know if the previous entries of this series addressed this in any satisfying way, but I elect not to think about it. I didn't require an explanation for the murderous car in John Carpenter's 'Christine,' so why should I need one now? Herbie is a VW Beetle, and he has a personality all his own. He can control his moving parts with ease, and displays amazing flexibility. That's good enough for me.

Lindsay Lohan plays Maggie, a recent college grad and former street racer. She was born into a family of car racers, but an accident causes her father (Michael Keaton) to forbid her from racing again. She buys Herbie from a scrap yard, to serve as temporary transportation before she heads to New York City for an internship, but the car surprises her with its ability to drive itself. At first, this seemingly malfunctioning car puzzles her, but eventually she just gives up trying to understand it and goes with the flow.

Her rival is a hotshot racer named Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon). He's the favorite to win an upcoming NASCAR contest. When Maggie's brother Ray (Breckin Meyer) suffers an injury, he suggests that she take his place. She agrees, but only on the condition that she can race with Herbie. Her father doesn't approve of this plan, but we know that eventually he'll reconsider and offer full support.

There are usually strict rules for this kind of movie that dictate exactly where it will go. 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' isn't so strongly bound by those restrictions. Yes, Herbie and Maggie are the underdogs who challenge the championship racer, but the movie doesn't focus the majority of its time on this part of the narrative, unlike 2005's 'Racing Stripes,' about an underdog zebra in a horse racing contest. The people behind 'Herbie' do better by developing Maggie's attachment to her car. Not since Wilson from 'Castaway' have I cared so much for an inanimate object. 'Herbie: Fully Loaded' demonstrates how good a family movie can be if a little effort goes into making it.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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