Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Herbie: Fully Loaded

Illustration for article titled Herbie: Fully Loaded

Not since David Cronenberg's Crash has a movie about cars been as sex-obsessed as the allegedly wholesome Disney live-action vehicle Herbie: Fully Loaded, in spite of Lindsay Lohan's PG-13-rated breasts being digitally reduced to a G. Anything set in the world of gearshifts and grinding cylinders can't really avoid it, but something about the ripe Lohan coming of age among aggressive alpha-males seems inappropriate, even before the creepy innuendo slips in. Then there's randy old Herbie, whose cutesy-poo affection for a spanking-new yellow VW bug turns a little too adult when his antenna salutes in attention. The family-friendly joke seems to be "Look, kids, those cars want to fuck!" Too bad Cronenberg couldn't have been set loose on this material, but that task has been left to D.E.B.S. director Angela Robinson, who merely seems intent on spit-polishing a sputtering franchise.

After an opening-credits montage that details Herbie's improbable accomplishmentsâ€"which involved going to Monte Carlo, going bananas, and riding againâ€"this benevolent Christine gets towed into the junkyard that will be his final resting place. But the scrappy Volkswagen gets a second chance when Michael Keaton, leader of a dying family racing legacy, buys him as a halfhearted graduation present for his daughter Lohan. Lohan used to be a dominant street racer, but after an accident shook her confidence, she gave up the track for an internship at ESPN. Initially put off by Herbie's antics, Lohan and her mechanic friend Justin Long take notice of the car's special powers and fix him up for a challenge match against arrogant NASCAR champion Matt Dillon. Yet taking the prize isn't enough for Herbie, who's used to not just winning, but winning in the wackiest way possible.

In reviving the beloved Disney property, Robinson attempts to resuscitate the fast-motion shots and sub-Three Stooges physical comedy of classic Herbie, but the new model seems distantly related to the innocent, peppy little car of old. Those adorable headlight eyes may be disarming, but in Fully Loaded, Herbie comes off as faintly villainous, a passive-aggressive control freak hell-bent on avenging anyone who wrongs him. The movie seems perfectly timed to capitalize on Danica Patrick's historic showing at the Indy 500, but Fully Loaded couldn't be less empowering to women: Since the car is in control, Lohan basically has no power over her destiny. The message to little girls couldn't be clearer: It may seem like you're behind the wheel, but somebody else is driving.