out of Five
Running time: 101
It's hard to believe that a franchise centred around a magical Volkswagen is still going strong after 36 years, but Herbie is still very much alive.
Herbie: Fully Loaded teams the number 53 VW bug with current teen queen Lindsay Lohan, herself an old hand at revamping classic Disney comedies, having already remade The Parent Trap and the excellent Freaky Friday.
The film opens with a respectful homage in the form of a montage of clips from the previous Herbie movies (The Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo etc) as well as an amusing cameo by KITT from Knight Rider, all of which detail how Herbie somehow ends up at Crazy Dave's Scrap and Salvage. When wannabe racing driver Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) shows up looking for a second-hand car, Herbie barges his way into her affections and proceeds to show her that she could be a champion NASCAR driver. There's only one problem - Maggie's overprotective father, NASCAR champ Ray Peyton Snr (Michael Keaton), has forbidden her from racing. Will Maggie ever achieve her dreams? No prizes for guessing.
The plot is, of course, extremely predictable and most of the jokes are aimed squarely at small children - Herbie squirting oil into people's faces; Herbie opening the door to make someone fall over; Herbie 'romancing'
another Volkswagen; and that sort of thing. That said, some of the jokes are very funny and the film is surprisingly involving, particularly during the build-up to the emotional climax.
Lohan is an extremely likeable and engaging actress; she effortlessly shows why she's currently top of the heap in teen queen terms. The film has also earned a certain notoriety for the alleged digital reduction of Lohan's breasts - apparently ordered by nervous, party-pooping Disney execs.
Eagle-eyed viewers can have fun trying to decide whether this is true or not, but there are certainly no cleavage shots on display here.
Aside from the obvious talents of Herbie himself, there's a superb supporting cast that includes Matt Dillon (as Maggie's egotistical rival, Trip Murphy), Justin 'Dodgeball' Long (as Kevin, Maggie's mechanic and closest friend), Breckin Meyer (as Maggie's racing driver brother who is in something of a slump), Michael Keaton as Maggie's dad and upcoming star Jimmi Simpson as Trip's right-hand man.
The effects are pretty good, even if they've gone a little overboard on the animation since the previous movies - for example, Herbie now blinks his headlights as if they were his eyes and 'frowns' using his bumper. There are some superb CGI-assisted stunts though and the Demolition Derby sequence is actually quite exciting.
In short, this is an enjoyable summer movie that kids will love and adults won't object to. Worth seeing.
Herbie: Fully Loaded (U)