Herbie Fully Loaded

4 out of 10


Hitler's Baby Hits The Road Again

It's stunning to think that the ultimate image of the peace and understanding of the '60's Hippie "free love" days was orignally designed as an symbol of Nazi power. Indeed, despite its dubious parenthood, the sheer success of the Volkswagon Beetle, arguably the car most loved by its owners, probably represents one of the greatest personal reasons why Adolf Hitler should have stayed out of German politics - having personally designed it, he would be now undeniably one of the wealthiest and celebrated of men in the world.

With Disney floundering around, looking for a new raison d'etre and a way to make money after the collapse of their hand-drawn cartoons division and their theme parks showing the common theme of falling profits, someone somewhere must have found a dusty old copy of the 1968 "The Love Bug" in the vaults. A cute little VW Beetle with a mind of its own, who enjoys trancing "proper" racecars in Grand Prix's, it is probably one of the truly most charming movie concepts of all time..

Loved by a generation of "Baby Boomers", director Angela Robinson has been keen to cash in on the nostalgia as much as the current generation to recreate the entire atmosphere of the string of movies from the late '60 and through the '70's. Sensibly she uses the original beetle design of the era rather than those new sleek ones and teams it up with teen starlet Lindsay Lohan as Maggie Peyton, the daughter of a race team, trying to find a cheap little wreck for pottering about town iin, but gains instead a loyal little friend who's keen to save himself from the scrap yard with hopes of racing again. With Matt Dillon as his architypal arrogant best as Trip Murphy, the rival of her father's team, it should seem like the perfect combination for a classic comedy..

Sadly, little in life is perfect, and deep disappointment is in store. Why? When you see the DVD, it's hard not to see: the out-takes and deleted scenes are better than the film. It took five people - Thomas Lennon, Robert Ben Garant, Alfred Gough, Miles Millar and
Mark Perez - to write it, and one director to trash it. In trying to concentrate attention on the VW itself, Robinson has hacked out numerous really good scenes. It pulls the plug on any coverage of the relationship with her father and her brother, played by poor Breckin Meyer whose own career is further hastened to the breaker's yard, as well as any intelligible development of her relationship with her adoring mechanic (Justin Long). Gone is anything interesting! For instance, a magnificent, eye-catching scene where a team of Trip's mechanics are assembling his elite race machine that is enthralling to see, is replaced by a scene that is arguably the worst opening scene to a movie of all time, with two utterly talentless actors in a scrap yard adding not a jot to the plot.. Indeed, it is all very well trying to recreate the atmosphere of the original 1960's, but using the same cheap tinny music and all the same corny slapstick, including at least three people being sprayed in the face with oil, is well beyond a joke. Furthermore, the collapse in quality is amplified when Disney, true to instinct, has shaved the budget by hiring a truly gauche team of thespian bunglers to support it who aren't fit to perform in an amateur home movie porno and Michael Keaton, as Maggie's father Ray, clearly trying not to look out of step in this void.

The result of the crazy slash and burn in cutting room is a movie with nothing more to offer than a few stunts you've already seen on the trailers. "Herbie Fully Loaded" is just an endless run of disjointed linkage scenes repeating the same tired old gags that go nowhere, concerning a girl who spends most of the time being an utter bitch to a little VW friend she so little deserves and yelping like a spoilt brat when it does something unexpected... Perhaps the little car fears it abusive parents are coming back from the grave.

Died on the cutting room floor

Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett