Herbie returns, but itís not the same

Perhaps a half-loaded Herbie would have been more viewer-friendly, writes Ervell E. Menezes

A still from Herbie: Fully loaded
A still from Herbie: Fully loaded

Remember Herbie, that delectable Love Bug who was born in 1968 and delighted cinema buffs right up to 1980 with four films, Love Bug (1968), Herbie Rides Again(1974), Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo(1977) and Herbie Goes Bananas(1980), is back again after a 25-year gap in an attempt to provide nostalgia to the seniors and catch a whole new generation oblivious to his pranks and antics in Herbie: Fully Loaded.

The good old Beetle Volkeswagon, the car that had a mind of its own, has to be salvaged from a junkyard to be given as a graduation present to Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan), a third-generation member of the famed Nascar family. Because of her motherís death in a car accident, her dad Ray Peyton Sr (Michael Keaton) is bent on keeping her away from driving.

How Maggie overcomes this obstacle, and even goes into racing bypassing parental authority is what Herbie : Fully Loaded is all about. And it doesnít take much time for Maggie to get her mechanic boy-friend Kevin (Justin Long) to get involved in the proceedings. Shades of Elizabeth Taylor in National Velvet over 50 years ago, she strikes a blow for women by first disguising herself under a helmet and later being allowed to race with the men.

Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon) is a singing idol and popular race driver she is slated to race against. But non-Herbie fans will not know that it is Herbie whoís doing all the tricks to win races because of having a mind of its own. "While updating him into a poppy, kind of hipster way that would appeal to a new generation of kidsÖ"the production notes claim, Herbieís character is slightly altered. But not for the better. But he is made a shade too aggressive as are the other characters in this revved up version of Herbie. Gone is that impish charm of old and the fare is rather loud and overlong compared to its predecessors and at best the fare is only good in bits and parts.

Lindsay Lohan is enthusiastic in the lead role and has enough of scope to display her histrionic talents but director Angela Robinson has to cope with her constant presence. Not that the screenplay is any help. It is rather trite, too loud and full of Americana. The daughter-father relationship is far from convincing and Michael Keaton, a shadow of his earlier self, struggles right through the film. Matt Dillon is rather stiff but Justin Long as the boy-friend is much better. Herbie too is not quite the same.

Of course those who have seen the original Herbie will be disappointed but for those who havenít it is worth a look (may be Herbie should have been half-loaded) as the target audience is both children and adults.