Movie Masochist: Herbie Fully Loaded

In a new occasional series, we challenged our geeky writers to watch a film outside of their 'comfort zone'. First up? Ryan, and Herbie Fully Loaded

The Lohan, seemingly with something in her eye

There is one name in cinema that fills me with a peculiar brand of dread – the Herbie films. I’m not even sure why I hate them so much – I think something strange and traumatic must have happened to me while a Herbie film played in the background at some point. At any rate, I haven’t watched a Herbie film since I was a child, but in the name of research I summoned my courage and sat down to watch Herbie: Fully Loaded.

In case you didn’t know, Herbie is a sentient Volkswagen Beetle with swiveling ‘cute’ headlamp eyes. He’s essentially a rubbish Knight Rider – he can’t talk, falls to bits all the time and, worst of all, squirts oil in people’s faces in cheap comedy fashion.

The car’s ineffectual nature hasn’t stopped Disney making several Herbie features – the first, The Love Bug, came out in the late sixties and spawned numerous unaccountably popular sequels that ran up to 1980. Then, after a hiatus of about twenty years, Disney decided to dust the Herbie franchise off and released Fully Loaded, with airhead Lindsay Lohan as the flesh-and-blood co-star. Justin ‘Dodgeball’ Long has little to do as Lohan’s love interest, and Matt Dillon (sporting a ridiculous moustache) is the obligatory smug arch nemesis. A slightly bewildered looking Michael Keaton also shows up as Lohan’s ex-racing driver father, says a few lines and quietly shuffles off again, probably to collect his paycheque.

I was unsurprised to note that Herbie is as genuinely god-awful as I was expecting; the plot (such as it is) sees Lohan and Herbie enter a NASCAR tournament, pitted against evil racing driver Matt Dillon. There follows an hour of inane comedy and tension-free racing, which reaches the peak of its stupidity in the last reel, where Herbie, despite being a fifty-year-old jalopy conceived by Adolph Hitler, beats Dillon in his 200mph supercar and romps home to a predictable victory, all thanks to some of the most appalling CG I’ve ever seen in a mainstream film.

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There’s always been something about Herbie films that irritate me to the point of feeling physically itchy, and despite Disney’s attempt at a post-millennium make-over, Fully Loaded had precisely the same effect – the first time Herbie rolled its headlamp eyes dolefully at Lindsay Lohan I was almost ready to get up and dive for the nearest window.

To make matters worse, the producers have managed to stretch a wafer-thin plot to a horrifying 101 minutes – an eerily appropriate number given the level of almost Orwellian torture served up here. In fact, if faced with a choice between watching Herbie: Fully Loaded again and 1984’s cage full of rats, I’d probably choose the rats.

Geek Content: Apart from a ‘magic’ car, not a lot. Michael Keaton’s hypnotically insouciant performance is quite interesting though.

Torture Rating:

4 out of 5