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Herbie: Fully Loaded (3/10 for adults; 7/10 for children)

by Tony Medley

It’s possible to make a movie for children that will be appealing to adults. “Because of Winn Dixie” earlier this year was a delightful film that tugged at my heart strings, even though it was intended for children. “Herbie” had a really terrific cast, including Michael Keaton, a guy I’ve always liked and one I consider a comedic wonder.

Alas, “Herbie” falls flat. Keaton, who plays Ray Peyton, Sr., doesn’t have one funny line. Not that all those responsible for the script (there are five names who got “Story by” or “Screenplay by” credit, always a sign of a dismal film) tried to write things that were funny. These people were so clueless that they didn’t even give Keaton one funny line. His role is a straight, boring role that could have been played by a cardboard man.

Lindsay Lohan has been in some very good movies, like “Freaky Friday” (2003) and “Mean Girls” (2004) and one of the reasons these films were so good was because she was so good. Here she takes a lousy script and makes the worst of it. Maybe some of the fault (or most?) can be put on the head of director Angela Robinson, who gives us a movie that has less life than shown by Herbie’s girl friend, an inanimate yellow VW bug.

The best thing in the movie is Matt Dillon, who plays the heavy, Trip Murphy, the top rated NASCAR racer in competition with Herbie. When Dillon is onscreen, the film has a vibrancy that keeps your attention. When he’s offscreen, it’s look at your watch time to see how much more you have to endure.

Also wasted is Cheryl Hines, who plays Sally, Ray’s girl friend. She is a delightful addition to Larry David’s diverting HBO comedy “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” Here, unfortunately, she finds herself trapped in the same hell with Keaton with no lines and no raison d’etre.

I missed the media screening so saw this in a theater with a real audience. At the end the children applauded. If you have children, they should like it, but take a good book.

June 26, 2005