Tuesday, March 7, 2023

Herbie Rides Again

Herbie Misaligned

What's it about?

Tonight's nostalgic pic is "Herbie Rides Again" (Disney, 1974). When evil real estate magnate Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) sets his sights on demolishing the old firehouse from the 1969 film "The Love Bug," it's up to Herbie to save the day!

I mean, come on: An evil power-hungry real estate guy with no taste who uses threats, nepotism, and criminal behavior to get what he wants? As if!

When all of his other schemes fail, Hawk sends his recently graduated lawyer nephew, Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry) to try to buy off the firehouse's resident, Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes), the aunt of Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett's character from the original film).
Our... Hero? Nah.

Mrs. Steinmetz (AKA "Grandma") reveals to Willoughby that the firehouse has become something of a halfway house for living machines like Herbie, including an odd jukebox and "Old 22," a decommissioned San Francisco trolley.
The last bastion mecca for bastardized mechanicals.

This woman was a sexpot in silent films. I kid you not.

This is further confirmed by Grandma's border Nicole (Stefanie Powers).
She sure does like punching Willoughby. Heck, we ALL like punching Willoughby.

Eventually winning over Willoughby to the reality that his uncle is a nefarious villain, the three humans and Herbie must outwit and outmaneuver an evermore desperate Hawk.
And I do mean, "outmaneuver!"

A standalone sequel

This is the second Herbie movie, and for the most part it has nothing to do with the first film. We're given a tiny bit of exposition explaining where Dean Jones and Buddy Hackett's characters went, but they never appear in the film. The film does take a few minutes to show a flashback sequence of a few of Herbie's races from the first movie, but this film doesn't really have the bones of that one. There are no races, and most of the vehicular sequences are car chases and rote slapstick; in short, you don't need to see the first film to understand this one.

Not my cup of tea

I just want to say right off that I dislike this movie. There's almost nothing of value here, and the first movie is superior in almost every way that matters.

Character flaws

Characters in this film are a bit off. The title sequence and first few minutes are dedicated to a montage of stock footage of building demolitions to set up that Alonzo Hawk is a tasteless and ruthless developer (the character is actually reprised from two other Disney movies: "The Absent-Minded Professor" and "Son of Flubber," so Disney was pioneering connected universes even back then).

Is Herbie powered by Flubber? Perhaps...

Willoughby is presented as ineffective and incompetent.
Exhibit A.

Nicole is shown as fiery and looking for a fight. Grandma is presented as trusting and aloof. Even Herbie's introduction into the film is subdued and lacks real impact, and he's a be-all end-all solution to every problem in the film, showing up like a pastiche of a superhero to rescue the other characters, rather than a character himself.
"Her-bie comes to save the day!"

The new animated inanimate characters are a total bust in my opinion: The weird jukebox thing is memorable but doesn't move, and the trolley can't do anything but ring its bell so what is even the point of having it in the film?
This thing gave me nightmares as a kid. I wish I was kidding. WHAT ARE YOU EVEN SUPPOSED TO BE?!


Most of the film's automotive stunts are achieved with camera effects and miniatures, which has the dual effects of both making the chase sequences both more animated and entertaining while also robbing them of any real-world weight and motion. The feel fake because they look really fake.

Funny for kids, but not for me.

Sketch comedy

The story is more of a collection of short skits with an over-arching theme rather than a cohesive story: Hawk comes up with an evil scheme, and sends his goons to carry it out, they chase Herbie and whoever happens to be behind the wheel, and then Herbie defeats them before the next sequence begins.

Herbie rolls out a new ability in every single scene.

Literally every scene.

This narrative structure makes the film feel a lot longer than it actually is, which isn't necessarily a good thing. I found my attention span waning while watching it, but that's just me.

A very soft PG

There's no bad language, no death, and even the more dangerous-looking automotive stunts (like Herbie trying to run down Hawk) are just whimsical and unbelievable.

One of the most gripping scenes in the movie. With soap bubbles.

This makes the film a good fit for watching with young children who might be entertained by Herbie's antics, but in and of itself it lacks the emotional impact of the original film, sacrificing the development of the characters for cheap visual laughs.
I'm honestly somewhat surprised modern Disney didn't try to whitewash this out of the film.

If your kids liked the first movie, they're almost guaranteed to like this one, but it might not be for you.

Alright. This made me laugh.

Where can you find it?

"Herbie Rides Again" is currently streaming on Disney+.

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