'Herbie: Fully Loaded' cute as a bug

LOUIS B. HOBSON - Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 12:25 AM ET

Disney has had a love affair with Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle since 1969, when he first appeared in The Love Bug.

Every decade since, Herbie has been dusted off and given a new adventure, either for feature films or TV movies.

The little cash bug is back in Herbie: Fully Loaded and it's amazing how sturdy he still is.

Herbie: Fully Loaded is a true Disney movie. It's aimed primarily at children, but will appeal to the adults or teenagers who accompany them.

During the opening credits of the film, audiences get a quick history of Herbie.

He was born in 1963, but his fame started six years later when he won his first racing stripes.

What Herbie's owners knew and kept secret was that the little car had a mind of its own and a rather mischievous temperament.

It's now 2005 and Herbie is being put out to pasture in a scrap yard, which means he'll be turned into a metal pancake unless someone buys him.

Fate links Herbie with Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan), the daughter of racing legend Ray Peyton Sr. (Michael Keaton), who, like Herbie, has seen better days.

The magic in Herbie: Fully Loaded is the pairing of Herbie and Lohan.

It takes an actor of her calibre to ground Herbie's antics and the film's numerous subplots in some kind of reality.

Lohan is the best of her generation of singers, models or teen stars who assume their celebrity or popularity means they can act.

She revs up the drama for the scenes with Keaton, who has the thankless job of being the parent who tries to prevent his daughter from pursuing her dream.

Maggie wants to race, but Ray is afraid she'll be injured, so he forbids her to get behind the wheel of anything faster than an old, beat-up 1963 Volkswagen.

Of course, daddy doesn't know Herbie is a speed demon.

Together, Maggie and Herbie are so fast and furious, they win a street race, incurring the wrath of Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon), the reigning NASCAR champ.

Dillon know he's playing a Disney villain, so he tempers his character's nastiness, allowing Trip to be the brunt of numerous slapstick jokes.

Herbie squirts oil in Trip's face, slams his hood on Trip's head and winks his headlights at him, which makes Trip think one of them is possessed.

Justin Long's Kevin is the human love interest for Maggie. He's a mechanic who, like the fabled shoemaker's elves, is able to work miracles overnight.

At least Dillon and Long get enough screen time to create actual characters, which is not the case with Keaton or Breckin Meyer, who plays Maggie's older brother.

With an upbeat soundtrack to match its upbeat central performances, Herbie: Fully Loaded is solid family entertainment.

(This film is rated G)


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