HERBIE: FULLY LOADEDG
Aimed as much at parents as at their kids, Herbie: Fully Loaded is a fast-paced reworking of a one-time mainstay of the Disney empire. First seen in The Love Bug (1969), the original Herbie went through four films and appearances on TV before he was dropped by the studio. The opening credits of Herbie: Fully Loaded amusingly detail his decline from superstar to a has-been literally facing the scrap heap.
Ray Peyton's (Michael Keaton) racing team is about to go under as well, especially if Ray keeps insisting that his son, Ray, Jr. (Breckin Meyer), is the only one in the family who can race. Ray's daughter Maggie (Lindsay Lohan) has more driving skills, but the overly protective father wants her to pursue an ESPN job in New York.
When Maggie scouts an auto-salvage lot for a cheap car, Herbie finagles her into buying him. Hijacking the controls during a test drive, Herbie takes Maggie and her old boyfriend Kevin (Justin Long), an auto mechanic, to a car show where oily racer Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon) is hawking his new video game. Herbie forces a disguised Maggie into a race with Trip, and beats the professional handily.
Trip demands a rematch. Maggie disobeys her father and accepts the challenge, but gets more than she bargained for when she inadvertently insults Herbie during the race. To learn her lesson, Maggie will have to rescue Herbie from a demolition derby as well as take responsibility for her actions.
Director Angela Robinson wisely concentrates more on slapstick than on preaching, speeding by potential obstacles like Maggie's checkered past and the death of her mother. Lohan's perkiness can seem a bit too practiced, but she's surrounded by pros who don't play down to the material. Long is a warm and ingratiating presence, while Dillon brings real grace and conviction to his role as a villain.
Although pushing 50, Herbie is still Herbie, a 1963 bug with roving eyes, a kid's disposition, and a full arsenal of mechanical gimmicks to get out of jams. The film suggests that he picks up some skateboarding moves from Maggie, but the stunts are mostly old-fashioned ones designed not to frighten youngsters. But given Lohan's appearances in tabloids, her character's flirtations, and Herbie wooing what would qualify as a trophy wife, there's enough sublimated lust in Herbie: Fully Loaded to fuel a steamship, another reason why parents may enjoy the film more than their children.