Herbie Fully Loaded movie review, Angela Robinson, Lindsay Lohan, Justin Long, Breckin Meyer, Matt Dillon, Michael Keaton. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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A scene from 'Herbie: Fully Loaded'
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"Herbie: Fully Loaded"
3 stars
95 minutes | Rated: G
WIDE: Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Directed by Angela Robinson

Starring Lindsay Lohan, Justin Long, Breckin Meyer, Matt Dillon, Michael Keaton, Cheryl Hines, Jill Ritchie, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

  • Lindsay Lohan
  • Justin Long
  • Breckin Meyer
  • Matt Dillon
  • Michael Keaton

  •  LINKS for this film
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    Lindsay Lohan co-stars with a souped-up Love Bug in her third better-than-the-original Disney remake

    By Rob Blackwelder

    Every time Lindsay Lohan and Disney join forces to update a kiddie movie from the studio's slap-dash period of the 1960s and '70s, they've come away with a winner.

    1998's remake of "The Parent Trap" showed a savvy sense of humor where the original was merely cutesy-poo. 2003's hilarious "Freaky Friday" expanded on its predecessor's body-swap concept to hit the nail on the head of mother-daughter relationships. Now comes "Herbie: Fully Loaded," a witty and creative follow-up to the dumb but endearing "Love Bug" movies about a race-crazy Volkswagen Beetle that comes to life.

    Lohan plays fresh college grad Maggie, a speed demon grounded from racing by her struggling NASCAR-driver father (Michael Keaton) after a bad crash in an illegal street race. For her graduation present, Daddy takes her to a junkyard to pick out a fixer-upper car, and she reluctantly chooses a rusty 1963 Volkswagen Beetle with a forgotten history and way more personality than Maggie bargained for. The moment Maggie turns the key in Herbie's ignition, the little Bug takes off like an excited puppy -- with his passenger screaming her head off -- and the pair end up at a backwoods body shop where Herbie gets a make-over and Maggie gets a love interest (Justin Long).

    While looking for parts at a car show, Herbie and Maggie fall into an impromptu street race, which leads to a nitrous-fueled desert showdown for pink slips, then a demolition derby ("10 cars enter, one car leaves!" chants the crowd in a "Mad Max" tribute) and -- after some serious souping-up with a roll cage, fat tires, a spoiler, and passing mention of a rules loophole -- a shot at NASCAR glory.

    Thanks to a clever, subtly subversive script (by a team that includes writers from "The State" and "Spider-Man 2") and spirited, tongue-in-cheek direction by Angela Robinson ("D.E.B.S.") that pays playful homage to old "Herbie" movies and gets ironic mileage out of 1980s hair-metal songs, "Fully Loaded" enthusiastically embraces its own absurdity and emerges victoriously fun.

    The movie does stumble over a handful of nonsensical plot points. If Herbie used to be a famous racecar, as an opening-credits montage implies, why don't the NASCAR announcers or anyone else recognize him? Robinson also runs into trouble getting that NASCAR finale up to speed. She fails to exploit the improbable juxtaposition of a VW Beetle going up against $100,000 stock cars and has a hard time tapping into the excitement of the race, so for about five minutes the whole picture threatens to unravel.

    But several unexpectedly solid performances keep the movie on the right track. Lohan finds depth in her complex relationship with her dad (Keaton is great too) and humor in her even more complex relationship with Herbie. (It cannot be easy to act with convincing emotion opposite a 40-year-old hunk of metal.) Matt Dillon is in his element as the movie's villain, an arrogant NASCAR superstar whose ire rises every time Herbie bests him.

    And although his personality is really just a combination of jury-rigged parts and CGI tweaks (sometimes taken a tad too far), Herbie himself is a scene-stealer extraordinaire. From his upturned-bumper smile to his moments of skateboard envy to a cheer-worthy roll-over stunt that saves Maggie during the demolition derby (the little car has a protective vibe), Herbie's charismatic "performance" proves why he's a star with almost 40 years of staying power.

    That probably sounds a little silly coming from an often cynical movie critic, but "Herbie: Fully Loaded" was such a gas -- and such a pleasant surprise -- that I'm happy to get in the spirit.

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