Herbie: Fully Loaded

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It's never any fun watching a film filled with distracting sales pitches. And for some reason, Hollywood seems to place the most commercials in movies designed with one of two demographics in mind: children and blacks. Herbie: Fully Loaded, aimed at the former, is laced with more ads than any flick this critic has ever previously screened, including Fat Albert and Josie and the Pussycats, both of which were prominent product placement bonanzas. Here, the number of companies hawking their wares approaches infinity. A partial list, based on my bad memory includes: Target, UPS, Ford, DuPont, Home Depot, Pop Secret, Net Zero, Sears Crafstman, Valvoline, Bosch, Dodge, Simpson tires, Jan Sport, Radio Shack, Toyota, Firestone, Speed News Cable TV, Yamaha, Kodak, Slim Fast, Lays, Pepsi, Lowes, Tyvek, GMAC, Quaker State, Revlon, Pro Bass Shops, Nascar, Popeye's, ESPN, Goodyear, Nextel, Nissan, Cheetohs, Sunoco, 3M, Lojack, Chevy and Fram oil filters.

Furthermore, because this kiddie comedy revolves around a 1963 Volkswagen Bug, you can't get avoid the obvious, ongoing car advertisement. And no one should be surprised that a subplot has the anthropomorphic auto falling in love, a convenient excuse to have a late model Beetle on screen periodically. Crass commercials aside, Herbie: Fully Loaded is just the latest installment in a proven Disney franchise which has proven to be a hit with generation after generation of tots in every decade since it was first introduced back in the Sixties. Though actually on 18 in real life, Lindsay Lohan stars as Maggie Peyton, a recent college graduate who would rather remain in L.A. to train as a stock car driver than to head to New York for her new job as an intern at ESPN.

Maggie hails from a racing family, but her father Ray, Sr. (Michael Keaton)doesn't want his daughter following in his and Ray, Jr.'s (Breckin Meyer) footsteps down such a dangerous career path, especially since she's the spitting image of his dearly departed wife who passed away ten years ago. But when he takes her to a junk yard to buy a used car for her cross-country trip, she picks a retired racer off the scrap heap, Herbie, #53. With the help of mechanic/boyfriend-to-be Kevin (Justin Long), Maggie manages to get the dilapidated Beetle with a mind of his own going again. This sensitive, souped-up jalopy can squirt wiper fluid, hurl a hubcap, or blink its headlights to let you know just how it‘s feeling.

Soon, behind her father's back, Maggie test runs a revitalized Herbie in a street race and learns that he still has what it takes. Next, he survives a Demolition Derby, setting up the big showdown, a NASCAR competition against the smug local favorite, Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon). For better or worse, Herbie: Fully Loaded has a pat plot without one surprising turn of events. If and only if you can ignore all the ads, you’re likely to find this a pleasant family picture to the extent that you don't mind being bored out of your brain for the sake of the tykes for whom this predictable adventure is intended.

Good (2 stars)
Rating: G
Running time: 92 minutes
Studio: Buena Vista Pictures

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