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Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005)
Director: Angela Robinson

review by Noell Wolfgram Evans

In the 1960s and 1970s, the Walt Disney Studios put together a string of family films (The Absent Minded Professor, The Shaggy D.A., Herbie Rides Again, The Apple Dumpling Gang) that were witty, fun, and engaging. The entertainment those films exuded is back in Herbie: Fully Loaded. This is not a remake but a continuation of the series about a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own.

This installment tells the story of Maggie Payton (Lindsay Lohan), of the famous Payton racing family, who graduates from college and now has to make those big life decisions. She wants to race but her father thinks other plans are in order. Her decisions that are helped along by a certain number 53 car, which she recently and somewhat reluctantly acquired.

If this sounds a little stock, that's because it is but that's part of what makes this film work so well. It offers just a little familiarity but then writers Thomas Lennon and Ben Garant are able to take that and manipulate it to make it fresh and fun. They also add in a little depth but with a gentle touch to not weigh the film down.

Ms Lohan first came to prominence playing the identical cousins in the 1998 version of The Parent Trap (noteworthy because it was a remake of a previous Disney hit), and she did so pitch perfectly. In this film she really works well with the material. Her performance is strong, and surprisingly layered. While she really could have overplayed this or been upstaged by Herbie, she manages to find her ground and hold it, giving the film the emotional core it needs to not be a one-trick pony. Also noteworthy is Matt Dillon who gives a great oily, understated performance as the villain, a rival racer.

While the premise is one that was a stretch even in the 1970s when the series came to prominence, the filmmakers wisely choose not to amp that or camp the movie up. Rather this story un-spools in a completely earnest and un-ironic way. Even the ending, which does feel slightly tacked on, and has a slight touch of that wink-wink sensibility, works because it remains sincere.

When it's all said and done, this film is a lot of fun. There are some good laughs, some friendly action and of course that car. It's a great family movie and one that helps to rekindle that Disney magic of old.

The Buena Vista region one DVD features a few obligatory extras including a director's commentary, music video, NASCAR featurette, and some behind-the-scenes shorts. They are okay but you'd be better served by not really knowing how Herbie came to life. The magic is that he did. So skip the extras and just watch the film again.
Herbie Fully Loaded

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