HERBIE GOES TO MONTE CARLO (1977)
Given that Herbie Rides Again was a pile of ass, and the director of this third installment, Vincent McEveety, was responsible for the utterly unbearable Superdad, I wasn’t holding out too much hope for Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. I was therefore pleasantly surprised to discover that Monte Carlo is a return to form for the Herbie franchise, reminiscent of The Love Bug without becoming stale or formulaic. Let’s take a look!
After his questionable foray into the world of attempting to murder urban developers in Herbie Rides Again, our intrepid Bug is back on the racing circuit!
Not an old lady fending off a wrecking crew in sight!
This time he’s in France, racing from Paris to Monte Carlo. He’s joined by his old driver, Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), and his new mechanic, Wheely Applegate (Don Knotts). The return of Douglas is particularly welcome. It’s like the gang’s back together again.
Minus Buddy Hackett, and plus one incompetent deputy, of course.
But this time a pair of bumbling criminals (Bernard Fox and Roy Kinnear) have hidden a stolen diamond in Herbie’s gas tank, and will stop at nothing to get it back.
Don’t care how, they want it now.
Naturally there’s a romantic subplot as well, with Jim Douglas and Herbie falling for Diane Darcy (Julie Sommars) and her Lancia, respectively. Diane’s a determined driver who struggles to be taken seriously in the world of 1970s racecar driving. Since she doesn’t realize that Herbie has a mind of his own (or that her Lancia does, for that matter), she mistakes Herbie’s amorous displays for sexist pranks on Douglas’s part. Which is actually really shitty, if you stop to think about it for two seconds.
Aw, love! (Or sexual harassment, if you don’t believe that cars are alive.)
And as if this movie isn’t getting overcrowded with characters and subplots already, there’s also a couple of asshole European drivers (Eric Braeden and Mike Kulcsar) who keep razzing the Herbie team. Oh, and a couple of cops are chasing after the diamond: Inspector Bouchet (Jacques Marin), who’s leading the investigation, and his chipper young subordinate, detective Fontenoy (Xavier Saint-Macary). Fontenoy is what you’d expect if Inspector Clouseau, Borat, and Kenneth from 30 Rock got stuck together in a blender. He’s kind of a blast.
I want a Fontenoy spin-off so bad!
Somehow, all these plot threads are successfully juggled, and good times are had. I won’t say any more, ’cause you should just go out and enjoy this shit.
Why is Dean Jones choking? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out!
As is the case with other Herbie movies, it is interesting to assess the little car’s actions in Goes to Monte Carlo as though he were a human being. It’s also a little terrifying. This time around, Herbie is an athlete who goes to Europe for a major competition, where a couple of thieves hide some stolen goods inside of his body. The poor guy then spends several days trying to escape the psychopaths who have forced him into becoming an involuntary mule.
Just imagine these two surgically implanting a diamond the size of apple into your torso.
Before he can do anything about it, he falls in love with one of his competitors. This is all well and good, except that his coaches (Douglas and Applegate) are more interested in him winning the competition than they are in helping him escape the criminals, or helping him in his romantic endeavors. They lie to him and tell him that his beloved has abandoned him, in order to squeeze as good a performance out of him as they can. In their drive to win, they even ignore blatant signs that there is a foreign body inside of him.
Completely disregarding Herbie in their selfish greed.
The moral? Life is terrible. Your enemies will fuck with you, and the people who claim to care for you are only using you for their own perverse ends. Go lie down in a ditch and die.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
While I thoroughly enjoyed this film, it is impossible to deny that the franchise has run out of fucks to give. Need some impressive stunt to finish off the race? Eh, just have Herbie drive on the roof of a tunnel or some shit. Whatever.
Herbie has been cruising the highway to the danger zone since Tom Cruise was 15.
While undeniably awesome, this shit does cross the line into fucking ridiculous (even in a movie where two sentient cars fall in love, no less). Maybe Monte Carlo just took the silliness a smidge too far for audiences to fully get behind. Also, Don Knotts really doesn’t seem to be bringing his A-game. And let’s be honest, while this is a pretty excellent sequel, The Love Bug it is not. Compared to the original, I could see why audiences might consider Goes to Monte Carlo to be sub-par.
- It is mentioned that the team’s last race was 12 years ago, but The Love Bug, which contains Jim Douglas and Herbie’s first race came out in 1968, only 9 years before Monte Carlo was released. What’s going on here? Does this imply that the events of The Love Bug were set in 1965 or earlier? Or that Monte Carlo takes place in the early ’80s? Damned if I know.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
For a character who repeatedly goes out of her way to point out how competent she is, Diane sure isn’t a very good driver. The movie has her crash into a pond for no reason whatsoever, just so Jim Douglas and Herbie can save the day. She would literally have had to make a 90-degree turn out of nowhere to land in the water the way she did. She was in the lead by a substantial margin, so there weren’t any other cars to distract her. There’s no reason whatsoever for her to have crashed. Apparently even if they’ve qualified and are in the lead in a prestigious race, women just can’t drive. Pfffffft.
Don’t worry, though, the men are here to save you!
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo outpaces Rides Again at every turn. Dean Jones tethers the film to the franchise’s roots. There’s plenty of racing action. There are fun new characters. There are subplots that differentiate it from the original while being fun in their own right. I honestly can’t imagine us ever getting a better Love Bug sequel (best of luck to you, Goes Bananas and Fully Loaded). Go on out there and watch The Love Bug, and when you’re done and looking for more, hunt down Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo. You won’t be disappointed.
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again (1979)