Herbie’s on the road again. It’s a brand new century for the famous 1963 Volkswagen Beetle, and after vanishing into the depths of a junkyard for a spell, he’s ready for another rowdy ride.
The fourth Herbie sequel, Fully Loaded, chronicles the little car with love in his eyes and gold in his heart landing in the hands of tomboy Maggie Peyton. She’s the youngest in a family of NASCAR racers, and though her grandfather earned accolades in the sport, her father and brother face dwindling careers. Now, the family name is about to go under.
That is, of course, until Herbie changes everything.
Maggie is the first in her family to graduate from college. She has a job with ESPN lined up and seems driven toward a bright future. Among her chief goals is gaining her father’s approval, and while it’s rough going for a while, Dad gets behind her when she needs him most.
Maggie has a strong affection for Herbie (“We’re a team. I need you”). And although she’s very competitive, she’s willing to lose a race because it puts Herbie in danger (he has an oil leak). When he faces destruction at a demolition derby, she saves his life—a favor he returns by scooping her up when a giant monster truck threatens to run her down.
Before their final race, Maggie tells Herbie—“in the interest of honesty”—that she once wrecked a car.
Maggie jokes that she’s going to have Herbie “exorcized.” Similarly, famed racer Trip Murphy says the car is “possessed.” When Maggie first finds Herbie in the junk yard, the glove box falls open, revealing a note that reads: “Please take care of Herbie. Whatever your problem, he will help you find the answer.” Maggie responds, “Great, a fortune cookie on wheels.”
Very subtle innuendo shadows a few conversations. Maggie sometimes shows off her bare midriff and wears tight shirts and short skirts, but her actions are refreshingly lady-like. When she changes clothes in Herbie’s back seat before an impromptu race, she asks Kevin—her love interest—to “stand guard, but no peeking.” Kevin doesn’t obey. He jumps at the chance to steal a look at Maggie changing, but Herbie won’t let him. At a drive-in movie, Kevin tries to put his arm around Maggie. Even though we know she likes Kevin, she shows restraint by removing his arm from her shoulder. Later, the two share a brief kiss.
Though Maggie evades physical romance, Herbie isn’t afraid of public displays of affection for the love of his life, a shiny, new Beetle—bright yellow with a black “bra.” His windows get steamy and his antenna quivers as he admires “her.” Maggie tells Herbie, “She’s too young for you.”
Trip Murphy tells his assistant to do a better job of filtering his interaction with female fans: “When the women give you numbers, get pictures this time. I do enough charity work.”
Like previous Herbie installments, this movie is full of humorous physical comedy—antics that usually come in reaction to people making fun of Herbie. Characters habitually get bonked on the head and slam into virtually everything. No one is badly injured onscreen, but some of the pratfalls would have quite different results in real life. For instance, when Trip tries to make some mechanical changes to Herbie, the bug slams his head with his hood, shocks him and squirts him with fluid. He ejects a man from his driver’s seat—sending him high into the stands at the derby—and drags another character through the dirt with a chain attached to his bumper.
Several high-speed crashes are shown. (None are unduly graphic.) At the derby, a giant monster truck—painted to literally look monstrous—chases Herbie, who gets dented, scraped and smashed. Maggie runs into the arena and is nearly struck several times as she tries to rescue him. In their final face-off, Trip tries to slam his car into Herbie and loses control. He’s taken away in an ambulance.
“God” and “Oh my god” are used a handful of times. “Jeez” is said once. Mild putdowns include “jerk.” “Crap” gets tossed around a few times.
Throughout the movie, Maggie’s father forbids her from racing. She ignores him and ultimately lies, claiming a friend is the one behind the wheel during Herbie’s races. In the end, though, Maggie apologizes to her father and admits her dishonesty has cost her the respect of those she loves.
The film makes references to Maggie being a former street racer. At one point, she and Herbie take on Trip Murphy outside the track. (While it’s never mentioned, street racing is illegal.) Maggie also makes a side bet during one of her races against Trip, putting Herbie’s pink slip on the line.
Viagra ads are featured on a stock car (but interestingly enough, filmmakers avoided blasting moviegoers with beer ads, which are commonly seen at real-life racing events).
Young children may be frightened when Maggie and Kevin watch a movie depicting a skeleton chasing a girl.
The Fast and the Furious this is not. In an effort to update and modernize Herbie, it would have been easy for filmmakers to make him so hip that he lost his quaint charm—and his manners. Thankfully, they didn’t. Fully Loaded maintains both the spirit and integrity of the original story, making this chapter in the Herbie narrative a welcome addition. Herbie may get tricked out, but he doesn’t get tripped up.