Tuesday, April 11, 2023

Herbie Fully Loaded

Lindsay Lohan Not Fully Loaded

Herbie's last stand?

Tonight's nostalgia pic is "Herbie Fully Loaded" (Disney, 2005). Through a series of brief flashbacks, we are (re)introduced to Herbie, a VW Beetle who made headlines decades ago by becoming a car racing champion.

They are actually quite tastefully edited, though.

Now a dirty and rusty Herbie is being hauled to "Crazy Dave's" scrapyard for recycling.
I feel for this little car.

He quickly makes an enemy of the mean-spirited Dave (Jeremy Roberts) and is marked for crushing.
Pictured: Another minor villain.

Meanwhile, Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) is graduating from college and getting ready to move from California to New York, under the watchful eye of her father, struggling race team owner Ray Peyton (Michael Keaton).
I think that his may actually be the first Lindsay Lohan movie that I have ever watched. Too bad it was her last successful one.

Post-Beetlejuice and Post-Batman Michael Keaton. How many years did we waste?

While Maggie gets ready for her new life, Ray's manager Sally (Cheryl Hines) brings bad news as their racing team sponsors are dropping out due to his race car driving son, Ray Peyton Jr. (Breckin Meyer), not being able to reliably qualify for races let alone win.
She's clearly meant to be Ray Peyton's love interest, but it's never explicit.

Actual brother of "Late Night" host Seth Meyers. 

When Maggie's best friend, rich debutante and airhead Charisma (Jill Ritchie) shows up with a brand new car, the struggling Ray Sr. takes Maggie to Crazy Dave's scrapyard to look for a car of her own.
Her character might be dumb, but she is well-meaning at least.

Maggie immediately catches the eye (okay, headlight) of Herbie, who manages to schmooze himself into her ownership (mostly by destroying her other choice). Quickly proving to be independent, Herbie drives Maggie to a rundown auto repair shop, owned by Maggie's one-time friend, Kevin (Justin Long).
We hadn't quite reached peak Long, yet.

While trying to give Herbie a maintenance shakedown, the little car drives Maggie and Kevin to an enthusiast auto-racing event, where the trio quickly make an enemy of NASCAR champion Trip Murphy (played by Matt Dillon, the poor man's Bruce Campbell).
Yet another in a long line of "Love Bug" rich antagonist racing jerks.

Goaded by Herbie into racing Trip, Maggie uses a found racing suit in Herbie's boot to masquerade as "Maxx," beating Trip in a street race, where Herbie channels Maggie's skateboarding abilities, grinding a rail to victory.
Do kids still skateboard? Seriously, I'm asking.

This slight causes Trip to become obsessed with the little bug, vowing its destruction. Maggie and Kevin give Herbie a makeover, and he quickly becomes an underground racing sensation.
The little guy really looks good here.

Can Maggie keep her racing identity a secret from her protective father while avoiding the machinations of Trip and his crony Crash (Jimmi Simpson)?
See, you can tell that Crash is a villain because he's just Jimmi Simpson.

Confessions of a nostalgia-phile

Before we get started, I have a confession to make: This was the first time I have ever watched this movie. While it may seem like nostalgia to some, by the time it came out I was hitting 30 (seems like yesterday), and I didn't think that a critically panned "Love Bug" reboot was something that I needed to see. Boy, was I wrong, on multiple levels!

The good

Much to my surprise, this wasn't a reboot so much as a refresh. The film acknowledges all of the previous cinematic Herbie films in the opening credits, and even makes the odd meta reference to the 1997 Bruce Campbell TV film (the name "Peyton" by some accounts is a reference to 1997's director Peyton Reed). While minimizing the references during the film (no character in this movie appears to have any connection to previous Herbie characters), it nonetheless genuinely feels like a love letter to those films, with a note found in Herbie's glove compartment feeling like it was left by Jim Douglas.

A throwaway to some, but tear-jerking for me.

Herbie is now animated by a mix of puppetry and CG in a way that gives the little car more expression than in previous iterations, and while he remains a cartoonish character, his journey still has emotional impact, enhanced exponentially if you've seen the previous films.
This scene is this film's version of the original's "bridge scene," and was pretty tense overall.

Incidentally, the film was written by Thomas Lennon, who most audiences will remember as Lieutenant Dangle from the series "Reno 911!" and who appears in the film as Trip's slimy brother, Larry.
This man is seriously underrated.

The bad

Of course, being a mid-budget Disney movie at the very end of the Eisner era it's not perfect, but what is perfection? There is an irritating amount of licensed music crammed into almost every scene in lieu of an actual score (although a remix of the original "Love Bug" theme does make a few audible appearances), which is a real shame because what score is here was created by "Devo" alum and film score veteran Mark Mothersbaugh. My biggest gripe is that there is an irritating amount of NASCAR in this film, but I can overlook it; Like it or not, NASCAR is now the face of American auto racing, and it was significantly more relevant in 2005, so it's understandable.

How is this car even allowed on the track? It violates all kinds of NASCAR rules, even at the time...

A lot of the CGI -- innovative at the time of filming -- hasn't aged particularly well, but (again, like it or not) this is now an "old" film so it has a certain amount of charm. Regardless, it still feels more realistic and grounded than "Herbie Rides Again," which to whit, is the only Herbie movie that I still don't care for.
Pictured: Still more realistic than practically anything in "Herbie Rides Again."

Oh, and critics HATED this movie, making it the second-lowest rated Herbie film, right above "Herbie Goes Bananas," so expectations were low.

My thoughts:

I loved this movie. It's not especially deep, and this isn't the best use of many of these actors, but because it's such a strong cast everyone does a great job for what this is (let's not forget that Herbie is the real star). It does make me wonder what happened to Jim Douglas and Hank Cooper. The thought of the little car outliving his original owner after their adventures is bittersweet, and actually gives the film some more emotional weight for "those who know." It really feels like it's of its time, but again that is its own style of nostalgia.

Funny for kids, fine for adults!

There's no foul language, no real violence (other than dangerous driving by the villains), and the only carnage on screen is when Herbie is nearly destroyed in a demolition derby.

"They did WHAT to my breasts?"

Disney even reportedly digitally reduced Lindsay Lohan's breast size, so there's no real sexuality in the film, other than Herbie's "bedroom eyes" at one of the more recent models of VW Beetle.
Herbie's paramour.

It's all perfectly appropriate for kids, and the story is cheesy but really isn't patronizing in the slightest so adults with even a passing interest in "The Love Bug" should have a pretty good time as well.

Where can you watch it?

"Herbie Fully Loaded" is currently streaming on Disney+, and is also available (used) on DVD and a limited Blu-ray release.

No comments: