Herbie: Fully Loaded

Cast:
Lindsay Lohan as Maggie Peyton
Michael Keaton as Ray Peyton Sr.
Matt Dillon as Trip Murphy
Breckin Meyer as Ray Peyton Jr.
Justin Long as Kevin
Cheryl Hines as Sally
Jimmi Simpson as Crash
Jill Ritchie as Charisma
Thomas Lennon as Larry Murphy
Jeremy Roberts as Crazy Dave
E.E. Bell as Beeman
Peter Pasco as Juan Hernandez
Mario Larraza as Miguel Hernandez
Patrick Cranshaw as Jimmy D.
Scoot McNairy as Augie

Summary:
While Herbie: Fully Loaded doesn’t break much new ground, the movie stays faithful to the character and offers fun for the whole family.

Story:
Maggie Peyton has just graduated from college and is preparing to head to New York. She’s the first member of her stock car racing family to earn a degree. Despite loving to race, she respects her father’s wishes that she not race. She instead accepts a job as a sportscaster at ESPN even though the family hasn’t had much luck winning with her brother driving.

As a graduation present, Maggie’s father Ray Peyton Sr. lets her pick out a carÂ….at the local junkyard. It’s there that she finds Herbie. The Love Bug is down on his luck and has lost some of his spunk and magic, but when he meets Maggie he regains his racing spirit and cupid mischievousness. Herbie soon sweeps Maggie off of her feet and back into racing (although she must do it secretly under the disguise of “Maxx” so her father won’t know). He also sparks a romance between her and a mechanic named Kevin.

But Herbie and Maggie soon run afoul of Trip Murphy, the hottest racer in NASCAR. After getting his doors blown off by the bug, he soon makes it his mission to win a rematch. Can Herbie help beat Murphy and gain the Peyton family a much-needed win at NASCAR? And will Maggie let the winning go to her head?

Herbie: Fully Loaded is rated G.

What Worked:
When I heard they were doing a new Herbie movie, I was really worried that they were going to revamp the series and just do a remake of the old Herbie movies. I loved those old Love Bug movies as a kid, so I didn’t want to see them ruined by a potentially bad remake. I was pleased to find out that Herbie: Fully Loaded is more of a sequel than a remake. They retain the history of the car, they stay true to the spirit of the character, and they keep the 63 Volkswagen. It made this new entry into the Herbie series feel more like a part of the family of films.

The writers did a good job of staying faithful to the Herbie character. (It’s worth noting that superhero writers Alfred Gough and Miles Millar contributed to the screenplay. I have a feeling that some of the wittier dialogue is attributable to them.) He’s still mischievous. He still takes off despite orders from his owners. He still loves to race. He still pees oil on people. All the things that made him appealing when I was a kid are still here. They also do some new tricks with him by making good use of CGI. He can now do tricks like a skateboard, he can smile, and he can do even more impossible stunts while racing. Herbie also gets to take part in the hot sport of stock car racing. The ads for the movie make it look like he’s at NASCAR for the whole film, but that’s not the case. That race is only in the last quarter of the film.

I’m no fan of Lindsay Lohan, but I don’t hate her either. I think she’s a great actress, but I’ve been less fond of her as she has grown up to be tabloid fodder. That being said, she leaves her extra baggage at the door and does a good job in Herbie. Lohan makes a good love interest, she’s hard headed, and she works well with the other actors. In any case, Herbie’s the real star of the movie anyway. As for the rest of the supporting cast, Michael Keaton is fun to see back in comedy as Ray Peyton Sr. In fact, he’s way under-used. Matt Dillon also hams things up well as Trip Murphy, the evil rival driver. He mocks the commercialism of some drivers and does everything a good Herbie villain should do. Justin Long is OK as Kevin, but he never really does anything that makes him stand out. He lets Herbie and Lohan take the spotlight as you might expect.

The soundtrack is full of pop music that both parents and kids can enjoy. There are a lot of remakes of tunes like Walking on Sunshine, Working for the Weekend, Born to be Wild, More Than a Feeling, and Fun, Fun, Fun. Performers like The Donnas, Mark McGrath, Josh Kelly are all featured in the soundtrack. Lindsay Lohan even gets in on the action with her song First. None of it will make rock history, but it all fits the mood of the film. And yes, the original Herbie theme is even briefly used.

I took my three-year-old son to this movie and he loved it as long as Herbie was on the screen. Any time anyone else was up there, he got bored quickly. And to tell you the truth, I felt the same way. The Love Bug is what makes the movie most fun.

What Didn’t Work:
Unfortunately, Herbie: Fully Loaded doesn’t offer much new for fans of the original movies beyond the whole NASCAR angle and the new CG effects. Otherwise it’s pretty much the same bag of tricks as in the previous films (which can be good or bad depending on your point of view). I think they passed up the opportunity to do a lot of new things with Herbie. His romance with a newer Volkswagen model is an example where they did this, but not to its full potential. I also realize now that one of the things I liked most about the earlier Herbie movies were the cross-country races. They allowed for a lot more Coyote vs. Roadrunner kind of hi-jinks between the bug and his nemesis than this film does.

My other gripe was the cheesy cameo by Jeff Gordon. Since the movie features NASCAR prominently, it’s only natural that some drivers have some cameos. But his performance was so wooden it became laughable.

Finally, the ending of the film seemed a little off. It was almost like they couldn’t figure out how end it, so they just went with what they did. I think they could have come up with something better.

The Bottom Line:
I think Herbie: Fully Loaded could have been a lot better than it was, but at the same time it could have been a lot worse as well. This movie will offer up some fun for new fans of Herbie and a bit of nostalgia for older fans.

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