Herbie: Fully Loaded (October 28/05)
Herbie: Fully Loaded marks the sixth cinematic appearance (including the bizarre television incarnation that featured no less than Bruce Campbell in a starring role) of that demonically-possessed Volkswagen Beetle, Herbie the Love Bug. This time around, Herbie has Lindsay Lohan to contend with - and the result is a thoroughly innocuous piece of work that only the most die-hard fan of the titular car will be able to embrace.
Lohan stars as Maggie Peyton, the gearhead daughter of a Nascar team owner (played by Michael Keaton) and the sister of a Nascar driver (Breckin Meyer). After Maggie receives permission to pick out a car from the local junkyard, she walks away with a vintage Beetle - only to discover that it literally has a life of its own. Through a series of convoluted evens, Maggie finds herself forced to race against hotshot driver Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon) at a pivotal Nascar event.
Herbie: Fully Loaded boasts a poppy sense of style (courtesy of director Angela Robinson) and several engaging performances, but the film's lack of a storyline makes it exceedingly difficult to actually care about any of this. The painfully simplistic structure - Maggie finds Herbie, gets in a few car-related hijinks, and finally learns a few Very Important Life Lessons - lends the film a feeling of mediocrity almost immediately, while the inclusion of various pointless subplots serves only to unnaturally elongate the running time.
That the movie's been crafted to appeal solely to kids is obvious, particularly given the sentimental and melodramatic vibe at work here (ie there's a ridiculous sequence in which Maggie's would-be boyfriend, her father, and even Herbie himself express their collective disappointment at her selfishness). And though there are a few elements here and there that prevent the movie from sinking into all-out tedium - ie Dillon's enjoyably broad performance and the old-school soundtrack (which even includes Loverboy's Working for the Weekend!) - Herbie: Fully Loaded is unlikely to have much of an impact on the majority of viewers.