THE OBJECTIVE: Watch the 52 worst live action Disney movies, one every week, in 2015.
HERBIE RIDES AGAIN (1974)
No kid who has seen The Love Bug could deny that they want more Herbie. Sadly, director Robert Stevenson’s second Volkswagen-centric film fails to live up to the fun of the original.
Hey, guys! Here’s a picture of Herbie getting chased by a shark!
Yay! Fun! Woo!
Hope you enjoyed that, because Herbie takes a while to show up in his own movie. The film opens on shots of Keenan Wynn, reprising his role as Alonzo Hawk from The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber, getting off on destroying historic buildings.
Hooray, the villain from a different franchise for some reason!
Now he’s set his sights on the old firehouse from The Love Bug, which he wants to tear down to make room for the Twin Towers.
Except they’re an H.
As it turns out, the old firehouse is now owned by Buddy Hackett’s mom. (Buddy Hackett himself has become a monk and isn’t in this movie. And if you’re wondering where Dean Jones is, he’s off in Europe, apparently.) Anyhow, old Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes) loves her old house and is refusing to sell it, for reasons unknown. In an attempt to charm her into relenting, Hawk sends his stupid nephew Willoughby (Ken Berry) to try to talk her out of her land. Also hanging around for no perceivable reason is an airline stewardess named Nicole (Stefanie Powers). After punching him in the face for working for Hawk, Nicole offers Willoughby a ride in Herbie, whose presence isn’t adequately explained.
The movie is almost 1/5 over before Herbie starts riding again.
Willoughby makes the mistake of mocking Herbie, and the little car goes apeshit, as it is wont to do.
After chatting for a bit, Willoughby decides that his uncle sucks and joins team Steinmetz. Meanwhile, Hawk decides to try intimidating the old lady by stealing Herbie. The bug lets himself be hotwired, but then frames Hawk for getting some police officers into a stupid car crash.
Also, is that even remotely close to what San Francisco looks like? I legitimately don’t know.
Hawk’s men chase Herbie around, and he ends up in all sorts of places he doesn’t belong.
Fancy hotel dining rooms!
And the Golden Gate Bridge!
While Herbie is cartoonishly dicking around, Hawk steals all of Mrs. Steinmetz’s shit, including her sentient ochestrion and cable car. Oh, I never mentioned that Herbie isn’t the only living machine hanging out at the old firehouse? I’m sorry, I got distracted by the fact that, despite being alive, neither the ochestrion nor the trolley do anything remotely interesting. Anyhow, Herbie and friends break into Hawk’s warehouse and get Mrs. Steinmetz’s crap back. On the way home, she meets a vagrant (John McIntire) who looks like her dead husband.
A match made on the side of the street.
Herbie then attempts to straight-up murder Hawk by running him off of a balcony, but is stopped by Mrs. Steinmetz threatening to sell him to a used car salesman.
“Alright, I won’t kill… today.”
Hawk ends up having some fucked-up dreams.
Eventually, Hawk just decides to demolish the house and anyone inside of it, which he really could have done from the beginning. But whatever. Mrs. Steinmetz and the vagrant try to fight them off, but to no avail. Eventually Herbie shows up with a bunch of other Volkswagen Beetles and the day is apparently saved.
Whenever I watch a Herbie movie, I always assess Herbie’s actions as if he were a human being. In The Love Bug, for instance, he is a jealous lover who beats a romantic rival within an inch of their life and then tries to kill himself. From this perspective, in Herbie Rides Again, our plucky bug is a strange dude who hangs around his friend’s mom’s house. He is incredibly vain, and reacts violently whenever his appearance is insulted. When a local businessman offers to buy her house, he loses his temper and on several occasions tries to murder the man.
Imagine there’s an angry middle-aged man just off screen.
The moral? Herbie is a creepy goddamned menace.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
There are plenty of problems holding Herbie Rides Again back from achieving The Love Bug levels of fame. It’s sad not having any of the original human cast around; all sense of continuity is lost. The plot meanders all over the place, and never really decides where to go. Herbie doesn’t have anything to do. Sure, he runs away from baddies, but he’s a racecar. He was meant to race. Hell, over two minutes of the film is taken up by a baffling flashback to the first film, as Herbie reminisces over the good old days when he was racing. Dammit, movie, don’t remind us of what we’re missing.
The best we get is jousting.
The whole affair is just shoddily put together. For example, the movie keeps cutting to Hawk talking on the phone with someone named Mr. Barnstorff (Don Pedro Colley) who apparently owns a wrecking company. Menacing music plays every time he shows up, but after a couple phone calls he just disappears. He seems pretty badass, and would probably improve the film, but we’re left hanging. Who is he? Why is he in this movie? Why isn’t he in the move more? I guess we’ll never know.
Fuck, Mr. Barnstorff is probably just too cool for this movie.
- Is that the Thorndyke Special hiding by the side of the road? Why, yes, it looks like this is a piece of reused footage from The Love Bug. (And it’s not even part of the aforementioned pointless flashback!)
Sadly, this is as close as the movie comes to having David Tomlinson in it.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
Mr. Hawk’s bad dream takes an unfortunately racist turn…
Oh, to top it off, they end up scalping him.
Dull yet exhausting, Herbie Rides Again is a very disappointing follow-up to The Love Bug. Borrowing Alonzo Hawk from the Absent-Minded Professor movies doesn’t make up for not including the cast of the original film, and the lack of any racing shenanigans is highly disappointing. I guess I should praise it for telling a completely different story than the original, but the film left me so underwhelmed that I really can’t stomach giving it any compliments. Go watch the original.
The Shaggy D.A. (1976)