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Film review: ‘Herbie’ isn’t your dad’s lovable Bug

Film’s ‘Loaded’ with vulgar humor; Lohan is on cruise control

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HERBIE: FULLY LOADED — ** — Lindsay Lohan, Michael Keaton, Matt Dillon; rated G (vulgarity, slapstick violence, mild profanity); Carmike 12 and Ritz 15 Theaters; Century Theatres 16; Cinemark 24 at Jordan Landing; CinemaStar 5-Star and Gateway 8 Cinemas; Megaplex 12 at the Gateway; Megaplex 17 at Jordan Commons; Westates Holladay Centre Cinemas 6.

Some of the broad and clownish humor in "Herbie: Fully Loaded" hearkens back to older film comedies — including the original "Love Bug" movies. As silly and as juvenile as they could be, they were also good, clean fun.

A movie that features such old-fashioned comedic virtues can be refreshing, which makes it even more unfortunate that this particular G-rated comedy contains sexually suggestive humor and references — even if its younger target audience might not pick up on them. (That this film skirted by with a G rating shows that the MPAA is clearly not paying attention these days.)

"Fully Loaded" catches up with Herbie — a 1963 Volkswagen Beetle — years after his last victory. He's been sold to a scrap yard and is about to be crushed when retired auto racer Ray Peyton Sr. (Michael Keaton) spies him. He buys the vehicle for his daughter Maggie (Lindsay Lohan) as a graduation present, before she heads off to New York City and a job at ESPN.

On the first test drive, Herbie takes Maggie on a quick detour to an auto show, where they get into an impromptu street race with reigning NASCAR champion Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon). To the surprise of everyone, Maggie wins — she manages to keep her identity a secret, since she was wearing a helmet.

But Trip doesn't take the loss well. He issues an open challenge for a rematch, but Maggie takes a pass. That is, until her auto mechanic friend Kevin (Justin Long) offers to soup-up and trick-out Herbie.

Director Angela Robinson clearly watched the earlier Herbie movies for inspiration — the opening-credits sequence is a montage of footage from the vintage films, and the fun auto racing scenes here have the same feel.

But she's working with a script (credited to "Reno 911!" creators Thomas Lennon and Robert Ben Garant and two others) with more modern tendencies, the worst of which is throwing in inappropriate humor.

Lohan appears to be on cruise control here, and it's disconcerting to see people as talented as Keaton and Dillon consigned to one-note roles: concerned father and stock villain, respectively.

"Herbie: Fully Loaded" is rated G, though it contains vulgar sexual humor (including sight gags and references), slapstick violence (mostly auto-related) and scattered use of mild profanity (mostly religiously based). Running time: 95 minutes.

E-mail: jeff@desnews.com