A kids film pure and simple, "Herbie" doesn't have that 60's charm to fall back on that the original films can still get away with. The result is a cute but rather plain little movie that sadly fails to pass muster as a hit kids film the way "Freaky Friday" yielded a surprisingly strong and enjoyable remake two years ago.
Still, considering the way other great Disney family films of yesteryear have been butchered with modern reduxs (eg. "That Darn Cat"), the G-rated "Herbie" comes off as something with a more loyal and loving respect for its predecessors. This is a surprise considering the audience its aimed at has likely never seen let alone heard of the VW bug with a mind of its own before.
Helping it is a solid cast too. Despite her off-screen antics and distracting new chest, Lohan displays a relaxed and easy going character who makes for a decent leading heroinne role even if its obvious she comes across as tired sometimes. Its certainly not a film that pushes her boundaries, let alone the likes of Long, Keaton or Dillon stuck with parts that seem beneath them.
There's some cute moments involving this car that weren't possible before - CG enhancements allow for some wild stunts, the last of which is too silly for words but hey - kiddies will love it. There's some auto-eroticism, monster truck rally action and NASCAR racing to suit all vehicular tastes. The opening credits is a fun montage nodding to the character's history.
The jokes and drama follows obvious lines with oil squirts, heavy handed moralising, and the standard overcoming guilt and finding your identity style subplots. Parents will find this all old hat and will grow quickly tired of the shenanigans. Even kids may find the action a bit old-fashioned. Nevertheless the race scenes are well done, there's life-affirming moments spread all round and the soundtrack is a great mix of classic rock numbers.
There's nothing particulary new or interesting about "Herbie" but it does what it sets out to do - be a great little kids film. We've come to expect family entertainment to be accessible to adults as well these days so its kind of jarring but interesting to see a film populated by adults but aimed purely for the young uns. This "Herbie" makes for a nice Sunday drive.