HERBIE GOES BANANAS (1980)
I love Herbie, so it should only follow that I would enjoy watching him go bananas. And hey, director Vincent McEveety, despite a questionable track record, did a fine job with Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, so what do I have to lose? Well, an hour and forty minutes of my life, apparently.
Apparently after winning the Monte Carlo Grand Prix, Jim Douglas decided that Herbie could fuck off, and shipped him down to Central America so that his shitty nephew Pete (Stephen W. Burns) and his obnoxious friend D.J. (Charles Martin Smith) can compete in some race in Brazil. But before these assholes who we don’t care about can pay to get Herbie out of storage, a street urchin named Paco (Joaquin Garay III) steals their cash.
He also keeps his hands on their butts for an awkward length of time.
Unfortunately, Paco also steals the wallet of a nondescript but menacing criminal (John Vernon) who, along with his two companions (Alex Rocco and Richard Jaeckel), is looking to steal some Inca gold. Oh no!
Come on, movie, get into gear, this isn’t Paco Goes Bananas!
With everyone chasing after him trying to get their money/Inca secrets back, Paco has no where to hide. Thankfully Herbie suddenly decides he wants to be in this movie after all, and invites Paco to come hide in his mouth.
Come, child, leap into my gaping maw!
And there Paco stays. Herbie then gets on a boat.
On the boat, Pete and D.J. meet a couple of characters played by Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman, who have apparently gotten tired of being funny and have decided to just sit around and collect their paycheck for this movie. Korman is Captain Blythe; he captains a cruise ship, but wishes he was a pirate. It isn’t very fun. Leachman is an older lady who is trying to find a suitor for her anthropologist niece (Elyssa Davalos).
This is as close to a fun screenshot as I could find for either of them.
Meanwhile, below decks, Paco pops out of Herbie’s hood to steal some asshole’s chicken. Herbie gets chased around by some guys. Chaos reigns.
It ain’t a Disney film if a banquet table doesn’t get smashed.
The Captain decides that Herbie must pay for his crimes. ‘Cause thems the boat rules, apparently.
(Don’t worry, Paco got out of the trunk before this part.)
Herbie should now be dead at the bottom of the ocean (like the actual bug they used for that shot) but fuck shit making sense, Herbie can swim.
Land or sea, none are safe.
But swimming takes the wind out of him, and when he runs aground, he’s pooped. Luckily, Paco has escaped custody, and happens to be at the side of the river where Herbie lands.
Paco prays Herbie back to life, and the two have a grand old time while an insipid song plays. But wait, the evil guys find Paco somehow, but Herbie and the kid make a quick exit. They disguise Herbie as a taxi for no particular reason, and through another stupid coincidence, pick up Captain Blythe and whatever Cloris Leachman’s character’s name is. At this point, Herbie does something terrifying. He drives all the way from Panama to Santa Cruz, Mexico, a trip that should take him at least two full days. The movie makes it clear that he doesn’t let any of his passengers out on the way, so we can only assume that Herbie’s back seat is now full of the feces and urine of his captives.
Cloris Leachman’s character’s niece buys a bus for $340 and she, Pete, and D.J. follow Herbie, who has now found his way into a bullfight, because there is no good in this world.
What is this bull shit?
Things get a little muddled at this point. Paco gets kidnapped by the bad guys, Herbie and the bus full of good guys chase them down, and somehow Herbie gets covered in Bananas.
Maybe he’s trying to cosplay as Cousin Itt?
Anyhow, Herbie gets into a fight with the bad guys’ plane as they are trying to escape with the Inca gold. How precisely they found Inca gold in Mexico when the Inca empire was centered primarily in Peru is unclear. Anyhow, Herbie wrecks the shit out of their plane, which is a bit disturbing, considering that many machines in this universe seem to be sentient. Unable to fly away, the crooks are foiled.
Pete falls in love with Cloris Leachman’s niece. Captain Blythe fails to fall in love with Cloris Leachman. The End.
As with previous Herbie movies, there is one important question we must answer: What would this film be like if Herbie was a human being, not a car? In this case, Herbie is a strange man who has agreed to meet up with a couple of guys and go to Brazil. But before he can head down with them, he meets and immediately connects with a small street urchin. He hides the kid from the people chasing him, and smuggles him onto a ship, where he steals and fights off sailors to protect the kid’s freedom and safety. Why he cares so much about this kid is never properly explained.
After his part in hiding the young stowaway is revealed, he is thrown overboard. He manages to swim to shore, where he rendezvous with the kid, who nurses him back to health. The two then spend some time gallivanting about the countryside (with other young children).
Yeah, Herbie, about that…
When people start chasing after his young friend, Herbie freaks the fuck out, kidnaps two people, drives them through six countries, and then hauls them into a bullfighting ring, for no good reason. Soon, the kid he’s been hanging out with gets kidnapped. He runs frantically through the jungle trying to find him, and eventually beats the shit out of the kidnappers’ vehicle. He’s saved the day, and the movie ends with him hanging out with the little kid once more, only now he’s in a cabin on the cruise ship, and the kid is dressed in a bizarre metallic jumpsuit.
The moral? It really is for the best that Herbie is a car, not a person.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
I think that in order for a Herbie movie to be good, it has to have a couple of things going for it. First, Herbie needs to be in a race. When he’s not on the track, his life serves no purpose, and he just kind of seems to creepily hang around. The same problem cropped up in Herbie Rides Again. Without a clear and concise goal, Herbie’s true creepiness starts shining through. Herbie also needs good supporting characters. In an ideal world, Jim Douglas is one of them. Without interesting characters for Herbie to play off of, he’s just not engaging. Goes Bananas has plenty of humans floating around, but none of them are remotely interesting.
Herbie Goes Bananas also suffers from an almost complete lack of connection to the rest of the series. Nobody even calls Herbie by his name; most of the film he’s just referred to as “the little car” or Ocho, thanks to Paco’s incompetent interpretation of the 53 on his side (“five and three is eight!”). Oh, there’s also not much of a plot. Are you getting why this was probably never fated to be a classic? Yes? Okay, moving on.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
In a terrible example of First World privilege, right after Paco steals his wallet, A.J. shouts, “We need that worse than you do!” Sure, the kid shouldn’t have run off with his cash, but I think that if we were to weigh their needs against each other, the homeless orphan child would end up having more to gain from that wallet than the spoiled race car driver.
Hell yeah, run away from there. I’m on Team Paco now.
I haven’t seen Fully Loaded yet, but I thoroughly hope that Goes Bananas ends up being the worst entry in the franchise. Dull as ditchwater despite prestigious comedic star power, Herbie Goes Bananas should be ashamed of itself. I know I am.