tek's rating: ¼

Herbie: Fully Loaded (G)
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Caution: spoilers.

So, there was this series of movies about a Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, which was sentient for some reason. It didn't talk, or anything, but it could drive itself, clearly had a mind of its own, and would use its horn and headlights and other features to express itself. The films were released between 1968 and 1980. I must have seen most or all of them on TV, when I was a kid in the 80s, but now I don't remember them well. (I should rewatch them all someday.) Well, this movie came out in 2005, but I didn't see it until 2017, on DVD. It's not something I was ever super interested in seeing, but I figured I might as well, mainly because it stars Lindsay Lohan. (One weird memory I have from around the time the movie came out is seeing a photo of her from the movie, whether it was in a magazine or online or what, I don't know, but I remember thinking that in that pic, she kind of looked like Frankie Muniz, from Malcolm in the Middle. And I remember mentioning that to someone on a message board I frequented back then, and I think he said he'd heard someone else say that, but hadn't seen the picture himself. And now I can't find it online and probably wouldn't recognize it if I saw it again, anyway. But of course, in pretty much any picture I can find, she looks nothing like him. Not even remotely.)

Anyway, the movie begins with a montage of Herbie's great successes as a race car, before segueing into his decline from grace. (And it's odd how it seems kind of like the newspapers regard Herbie as if people knew that he was sentient, which as far as I recall, was never common knowledge in the movies.) Then we see Herbie being delivered to Crazy Dave's Scrap & Salvage yard. The guy delivering him already seemed to accept that Herbie was alive, or whatever, but Crazy Dave himself doesn't believe that. Though it doesn't take long for him to get angry at Herbie's attitude, and want to crush him. Luckily, he doesn't do that right away. Meanwhile, a young woman named Maggie 'Mags' Peyton (Lohan) has just graduated from college. She's planning to go to New York soon, to start working as a TV producer or whatever, but her real love is racing. Apparently her grandfather (who I'm assuming is deceased) was a famous race car driver. And I think her father, Ray Peyton, Sr. (Michael Keaton) was a driver. Currently, he's the head of Team Peyton, and his son, Ray Jr. (Breckin Meyer) is the driver... though he frequently crashes. Maggie herself used to be a street racer, until an accident she had some time ago put an end to that. (Also, her mother is dead, though I have no idea when or how that happened.) Anyway, Maggie's father takes her to Crazy Dave's to buy her a car, as a graduation present. (Since Team Peyton isn't doing very well, I guess a salvage car is all he can afford.) Herbie certainly isn't Maggie's first choice, but... it's kind of inevitable that she ends up with him.

She finds a letter in the glove compartment that lets her know the car's name. And it doesn't take long for her to realize Herbie has a mind of his own, which is understandably kind of terrifying. Not to mention impossible to explain to anyone else without sounding crazy. But she takes him to an auto shop to get fixed up, where she reconnects with her old friend Kevin (Justin Long), who is a mechanic, and potential love interest. And it takes him a lot longer than it should to realize that Herbie is more than a normal car, but he eventually comes around. Meanwhile, there's a famous race car driver named Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon), who becomes the movie's antagonist. Herbie beats him in an impromptu race, which makes him obsessed with beating the car in a rematch. But no one knows who was driving Herbie, since Kevin and Maggie had discovered a racing suit and helmet in Herbie's trunk, which Maggie wore. Anyway, I also need to say that Team Peyton has been losing a lot of sponsors. Basically the only company left that sponsors him is represented by Sally (Cheryl Hines). And she shows Ray Sr. a VHS tape (yes, in 2005) on which she'd recorded a news story about Herbie beating Trip. Of course Ray recognizes the car, and asks Maggie about it. She claims the car had been driven by a friend of Kevin's named Max. Because she'd promised him not to do any more racing, since her accident. (It's kind of interesting, I guess, that this imaginary racer's name was so close to "Mags." And even stranger that Trip knew the name Max before there seemed to be any way for him to have heard it.) Anyway, Trip wants a rematch, so he sets up a contest which attracts Herbie's attention, and Herbie attracts Maggie and Kevin's attention to it. But Trip manages to get Maggie to do something that hurts Herbie's feelings, so Herbie throws the race.

When Ray Sr. learns that Maggie had lied to him, he's very upset. But Ray Jr.'s latest crash leaves him unable to race, and he wants Maggie (against Ray Sr.'s wishes) to take his place... which she'll only do if she can drive Herbie, with whom she makes up. And incidentally... it seemed really weird to me that throughout both Trip's contest and the subsequent NASCAR race, none of the people who are supposed to know a lot about car racing had any idea that Herbie had once been a famous race car. I'm willing to let that slide, but only because I guess I have no choice. Other than that... well, Maggie's father eventually comes around and is proud of her. And, you know, the movie has a happy ending all around. And I dunno what else to say... except I should mention that Maggie had a friend named Charisma. And Trip had a friend named Crash. Charisma and Crash both looked familiar to me, though I couldn't place them. Looking at IMDb, I've surely seen both actors in other things, but nothing I distinctly remember them from. So, whatever.

Anyway, I found the movie amusing and fun. It's not great, but it's not bad, either. I mean, it's kind of redonkulous, but that's true of all the Herbie movies. I can't say for sure at the moment, since I don't remember them very well, but I don't think this movie was any worse than any of the old movies. I think it basically had the same sensibility, the same sense of humor, albeit slightly more modern in some respects. Mostly it was an old fashioned sense of humor, which is the only reason I can imagine for anyone not liking the movie. But I think it would be totally unfair to like the older movies and dislike this one. (But by the same token, it would be totally fair to dislike any and all Herbie movies, I guess. Maybe I just liked this one because of some kind of nostalgia for the old movies. And to some extent because Lohan is really nice to look at.)

The Love Bug * Herbie Rides Again * Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo * Herbie Goes Bananas * Herbie: Fully Loaded

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