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HERBIE: FULLY LOADED

Review by Michael Jacobson

Stars:  Lindsay Lohan, Justin Long, Breckin Meyer, Matt Dillon, Michael Keaton
Director:  Angela Robinson
Audio:  Dolby Digital 5.1
Video:  Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  102 Minutes
Release Date:  October 25, 2005

"I'm being carjacked by my OWN CAR!!"

Film ***

One of Disney's greatest film stars has finally made it back to the big screen.  He was loveable and heroic, dashing and daring, and always managed to save the day.  And after 40 years, he still looks as great as ever.  Between you and me, I think he's had a little work done, but hey, there it is...

Of course, I'm talking about none other than Herbie the Love Bug.  The little 1963 Volkswagen bug won hearts the world over in his debut film, and continued to churn out films throughout the 70s and early 80s.  Now, he's come out of retirement to remind the world just what a car with heart and his human companion can accomplish in Herbie: Fully Loaded.

In this case, that human is Maggie Peyton (the always terrific Lohan).  Maggie comes from a racing family: her grandfather was a big star in NASCAR.  Now, her father (Keaton) is struggling to keep their good name and their racing team afloat, but her brother Ray (Meyer) doesn't seem to have the chops.

When Maggie rescues Herbie from a junkyard as her graduation present, the sparks begin to fly.  After all these years, Herbie still has a mind of his own...and when the little car forces a challenge between Maggie and racing star Trip Murphy (Dillon), it's only the beginning of her troubles!

With the help of an old school friend Kevin (Long), Maggie starts to learn what Herbie is really capable of.  But will she be able to thwart the villainous plans of Trip, rescue Herbie from certain destruction, and save her father's racing business?  I'd love to tell you the answers, but unfortunately, I've got a restrictor plate holding me back.

Suffice to say, Herbie still knows how to deliver good G rated family fun.  The movie, directed by D.E.B.S. auteur Angela Robinson, is not particularly original...you'll notice nods to some of the other Herbie movies here and there.  One subplot, a la Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, has our beloved bug falling for a modern Volkswagen.  "She's too young for you!" Maggie chides.

Still, what it lacks in new ideas, it makes up for in sheer fun.  Herbie not only gets to stretch his legs, he gets to show off a few new stunts, such as grinding a rail, riding a fence, and rescuing Maggie from a monster truck in a move that has to defy every known law of physics and mechanics.  But hey, Herbie was always a defiant little thing.

The cast is enjoyable...it was great to see Michael Keaton and Matt Dillon obviously having great times and not worried a bit about being upstaged by a car.  And Lindsay Lohan, who remains my favorite of all the young stars today, delivers again with radiant spunk and comic timing.  She's Herbie's best companion since Dean Jones.

Herbie is mostly as you remember him...possibly a little more animated than before.  New headlight covers give him more expressive "eyes", and as an added bonus, we get Herbie POV shots, which might actually remind you a little bit of HAL from 2001.  Thankfully, only a few CGI shots were employed.  Most of what you see of Herbie is all Herbie...a bona fide movie star like him deserved nothing less.

I, for one, hope Herbie races again, and that Maggie is back behind the wheel with Kevin and her family by her side.  The young star, classic veterans, and one unforgettable piece of machinery make some terrific movie magic together.

Video ***1/2

Herbie still looks great, and so does this DVD.  The anamorphic widescreen transfer is bright, colorful, crisp and clear from start to finish.  Whether buffed to a showroom shine or grimy from his last victory, Herbie always comes through looking like a champ.  Detail level is strong throughout, colors are natural looking and well contained, and no grain or compression artifacts interfere with the viewing pleasure.

Audio ***1/2

This film may boast the year's best soundtrack...classic rock songs and new takes on old favorites keep the 5.1 audio kicking!  "Walking on Sunshine", "Working For the Weekend", "Jump" and others will keep the smile on your face.  Apart from that, the racing scenes are nice and boisterous, and keep the rear channels and subwoofer plugging along.  Dialogue is well rendered throughout, and dynamic range is fairly potent.

Features ***

If you want to find out what makes Herbie tick, check out these extras.  An audio commentary by Angela Robinson will tell you how it all came together.  "A Day at the Races" will actually clue you in to what happens in a NASCAR race.  There are also featurettes on the stunts and bringing the little car to life.  Rounding out is a good blooper reel, 7 deleted scenes, an alternate title opening, and a music video by Lindsay Lohan for "First".

Summary:

The little car that could proves he still can.  Herbie: Fully Loaded is a sweet, fun little movie with a big heart and fast wheels.  This is one the whole family can enjoy.

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