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  Herbie Rides Again Just Buggin'
Year: 1974
Director: Robert Stevenson
Stars: Helen Hayes, Ken Berry, Stefanie Powers, John McIntire, Keenan Wynn, Huntz Hall, Richard X. Slattery, Raymond Bailey, Dan Tobin, Elaine Devry, Liam Dunn, Vito Scotti, Don Pedro Colley, Chuck McCann, Larry J. Blake, Hal Baylor, Fritz Feld, Alvy Moore
Genre: Comedy, Action, FantasyBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) is a businessman who has made a habit of demolishing buildings so that he can build shopping complexes in their place, and although he has his eye on the Colisseum in Rome, at the moment he is concentrating his attention on San Francisco, where many have been torn down. However, his big idea is to put up a building which will double as a monument to himself: a huge letter H, and just as construction is about to go ahead he notices something wrong. One house remains on the site, and its owner, Mrs Steinmetz (Helen Hayes), is not selling...

It had been a good few years since Herbie the Love Bug had graced cinema screens before Disney decided to bring him back for the first of many sequels, either a mark of how beloved the character had become or how lacking for fresh new ideas the corporation were at this stage in the mid-seventies. It's true there was a production line feel to much of their live action work in this era, but there are those who grew up with these films either in the cinema or (more likely) on television who have a fond place in their heart for them, although whether they continue to feel that way after returning to them some years later would be a moot point.

The trouble here was one which the other Herbie movies managed to fix: no racing. The Volkswagen with a mind of its own was essentially a racing car, and there were no competitions to be appreciated in this, his second outing as most of his time was taken up with being pitted against the monolithic powers of big business, thereby furthering the idea, possibly utterly erroneous, that whenever the little guy stands up to the big business he (or she) will surely be the victor. Dean Jones was nowhere to be seen, his character explained away in one line - he's away racing in Europe - leaving aunt Hayes as the owner.

Not that she gets much driving done when Herbie does all that himself, so all Mrs Steinmetz has to do is knit away while travelling along. It wasn't simply these two standing up to Hawk, as he sends his nephew Willoughby (Ken Berry) around to persuade the old lady through force of niceness, but once her granddaughter Nicole (Stefanie Powers) shows up and decks him with a single punch he starts to wake up to the idea that as a lawyer, he is not on the side of good. For a start, it's hard to believe the San Francisco city authority would agree to a building like that (the model looks like the World Trade Center), so they could have caught out Alonzo that way.

But they don't, because there's not much comedy in planning restrictions, so what followed was a warming of relations between Willoughby and Nicole (though she has an undeniable violent streak) as they team up with their allies - which include a self-playing nickleodeon and a streetcar which rings its bell joyously - to work out a plan of action. Alonzo is not playing fair, so he steals their property at one stage, and sends a wrecking crew round whether he has permission or not, but Herbie has a few tricks up his, er, sleeve as well, necessitating various convoluted ways of getting a car into scenes with the human cast, not easy when that racetrack is not around. There is one scene away from the usual shenanigans that sticks in many memories: Hawk suffering a series of nightmares featuring Herbie, first with the car and his clones sporting a mouthful of sharp teeth, then as Indians flinging tomahawks at the tied up victim, and finally with Alonzo as King Kong surrounded by flying Herbies. The rest, ho hum, that bit, quite arresting. Music by George Bruns.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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