'Herbie': Nothing But Scrap Metal

By Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, June 24, 2005

This "Herbie" -- a sequel to the "Love Bug" movies of the 1960s and 1970s about an anthropomorphic Volkswagen that thinks it's a race car -- is loaded all right. Unfortunately, it's with spare parts from dozens of other equally mediocre underdog sports films.

The good news, and there is some, is that its target audience members (say, 5- to 6-year-olds) haven't lived long enough to have seen any of them. For anyone old enough to cross the street without holding hands, however, the movie's a reconditioned lemon trying hard to hide its flaws. They are, in no particular order of egregiousness: lame dialogue (credited to four people you never heard of); acting by stars Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton and Matt Dillon that, if not exactly wooden, at least smells of Old English furniture polish; styleless direction by Angela ("D.E.B.S.") Robinson; cheesy effects; a music score phoned in by Mark Mothersbaugh, whose work on "Rugrats" puts this to shame; and a supplementary oldies soundtrack so lazy it seems to have been cadged from a K-Tel Records collection.

The plot (which, at 101 minutes, is about 30 minutes too long) concerns the discovery, in a junk yard, of a beat-up old VW named Herbie, whose past exploits as an unlikely racing champion are introduced in a retro-looking opening-credit sequence. Rescued from the crusher by Maggie Peyton (Lohan), the scion of a down-on-his-luck stock car racing team captain (Keaton), Herbie proves himself still capable of a little fight, when he trounces cocky pro racer Trip Murphy (Dillon) in a street race, leading to higher and higher-stake showdowns. Stalling the inevitable conclusion are a couple of complications: Maggie's dad doesn't want her to drive, even though it's in her blood, and Herbie almost bites the dust in a demolition derby after Maggie loses him to Trip in an ill-considered wager. Other than that, this race is fixed from start to finish, with the sure losers being all the parents whose kids will drag them to see this hunk of junk, held together by cliches and Turtle Wax.

Herbie: Fully Loaded (G, 101 minutes) -- Contains the barest smidgen of mildly crude humor. Area theaters.

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