Herbie: Fully Loaded

written by Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant and others
directed by Angela Robinson
starring Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon and Herbie the magic car

3 stars

review by Stephen Notley

I bought Herbie: Fully Loaded on a whim. I'd always liked the Herbie films, I figured Lindsay Lohan was pretty hot in Mean Girls, and what the hell, it was 6 bucks used.

I expected a fluffy piece of computer-generated "family"-oriented triviality. What I got instead was something far more disturbing, a twisted psychological portrait that felt as if it could suddenly explode into horror at any moment.

The credit sequence shows us scenes from Herbie's earlier career in films like The Love Bug and Herbie Goes Bananas as a magic living car, much like Christine with the only difference being that Herbie doesn't kill people. Instead, Herbie helps his driver to win races as well as whatever girl he's sweet on.

By the time we get to Fully Loaded, however, Herbie's rotting in a junkyard, long forgotten. Along comes Lindsay Lohan who's just graduated from high school and wants a car and secretly wants to race but her father won't allow her even though he runs a racing team. Herbie sees her and arranges things so that she buys him.

Herbie is, to be sure, a very computer-animated thing, particularly any time he's in motion. But in many ways Lohan is even less real than Herbie. She buys this car, gets in, and suddenly it tears off down the road by itself, wheeling around corners, Lohan squealing as the steering wheel whirls and the gear shift shifts by itself, finally screeching to a stop inches away from the head of a young mechanic in a barn. Quite a terrifying experience, to anyone human. To Lohan it's irksome. She and the mechanic do small talk and climb back in the car. Wham! Once again, doors locked, both mortals trapped inside the living car, Herbie darts down the road and into traffic, farting and roaring away the instant the light goes green, finally dragging them to, and then her into, a race.

The fact is, Herbie is a dick. It soon becomes quite clear that Lohan has a powerful, emotional, unpredictable and very possessive living car on her hands, yet she never quite seems to grasp it. Herbie's weaseled his way into being her car-boyfriend but he never actually lets her drive and he causes all kinds of trouble. He's winning races for her but she doesn't appreciate it, so he gets resentful. If imprisoning and endangering people is what he's like when he's trying to make a good impression, what's going to happen if he gets jealous?

And along comes Matt Dillon as the villain, the asshole racer Trip Murphy. She doesn't want him. But he lets her drive one of his stock cars. And the oily, carnal way that she slinks up to and into that car is a hot moment of betrayal. She takes that car out on the road. It's the first time we see her drive and she fucks that car. She has car sex with that car in a way she'd never had with Herbie, and even though I hadn't really liked him I felt pretty bad for him.

From there I don't want to get too bogged down in plot; suffice it to say that Herbie and Lohan behave in ever more impossible ways and there's a redemptive scene of gladiatorial combat and a race which Herbie wins. Lohan and Herbie come to an accommodation of sorts, but it's a vaguely uneasy one: "You're still my car-boyfriend, but we're just friends".

Beneath the hoopla and computer stunts there's something strangely uncomfortable and interesting in this goofball peppy happy movie for the kids. I don't know. Why not watch it yourself and see what you think?