Alonzo Hawk wants to tear down the home of sweet little old lady Mrs Steinmetz and erect San Franciscos tallest skyscraper. Fortunately, Mrs Steinmetzs nephew owns Herbie, the thinking Volkswagen.
This pleasant, forgettable sequel to The Love Bug, one of Disney’s biggest live-action hits of the 1960s, is made on the template of all Uncle Walt’s fantasy comedies back to The Absent-Minded Professor.
Since the Disney Corporation has a reputation for rapaciousness which makes McDonald’s look like an organic soya collective, it’s ironic that Keenan Wynn’s snarling Alonzo P. Hawk – who’d previously given Fred MacMurray a hard time in The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber – is the ultimate capitalist villain, who longs to demolish to Colosseum (‘think of the shopping centre and parking lot I could put there’) and is tormented by a King Kong-inspired nightmare in which he is a giant atop the Empire State Building attacked by miniature flying Volkswagens.
Dean Jones sits out the sequel (Hayes explains Herbie is upset because he has gone on the Grand-Prix circuit and is being unfaithful with other European cars) and the blander Ken Berry does little as a token human hero.
A post-Girl From U.N.C.L.E., pre-Hart to Hart Stefanie Powers is winning in a fetching red beret and matching miniskirt, though her role consists mainly of hitting people with lobsters and surprisingly semi-orgasmic oohs and ahhs as Herbie performs his stunts.
In addition to the living car, the film features a superannuated sentient streetcar and a sentimental jukebox, while the human cast tends to old-timers like John McIntire, Helen Hayes, Huntz Hall and Liam Dunn.
Herbie rode again and again, in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, a 1997 TV movie remake of The Love Bug and the 2005 comeback Herbie: Fully Loaded.