“If I’d wanted a trick car, I’d have bought one in a joke shop!”
When a down-on-his-luck race car driver (Dean Jones) and his roommate (Buddy Hackett) “inherit” a sentient Volkswagen Beetle which Hackett names “Herbie,” they find themselves embroiled in a bitter rivalry with the a luxury car shop owner and racer (David Tomlinson) whose personal assistant (Michele Lee) grows increasingly fond of both Jones and “Herbie”.
Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:
- Car Racing
This beloved Disney live-action film about an anthropomorphic VW Beetle spawned an entire franchise of sequels, as well as a 1997 remake. It’s a surprisingly amiable comedic-adventure flick centering on a dastardly villain (Tomlinson, best known as the father in Mary Poppins) who will stop at nothing to win races:
The first portion of the film focuses on “Herbie” making himself known as a sentient presence in the lives of dense Jones and the unexpectedly-wise Hackett, who has done some soul searching in Tibet and “gets” what the little car is trying to say.
Indeed, it’s Hackett’s special bond with “Herbie” that drives the film’s narrative throughout, as we hope the others will finally get a clue and stop treating the car like simply a hunk of machinery. Unfortunately, Jones is a pretty dull protagonist:
… but at least Lee has more spunk:
… and the car race sequences are reasonably exciting.
Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:
- Good use of authentic San Francisco locales
No, though of course live-action Disney fans will be curious to check it out.