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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Herbie Goes Bananas
Herbie Goes Bananas
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // May 4, 2004
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Matthew Millheiser | posted May 26, 2004 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

In classic Millheiserian form, I'm going to begin this review by talking about myself. Again.

As a little kid of the '70s, my movie moments were exemplifed by going to the long lamented Sunniland Movie Theater and watching whatever Disney live-action product I could find. As far back as I can possibly remember, we'd go see nearly every Disney film that came down the pike. They were usually double-billed with a classic animated feature or short, and they made for some smashing entertainment... for a kid, anyhow. I have fond memories of seeing Candleshoe, Escape From With Mountain (and its sequel), Freaky Friday, Unidentified Flying Oddball (double-billed with The Jungle Book, clearly one of those magical movie moments), The Black Hole, and each and every Herbie film in existence: The Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, and the last of the Herbie sequels, Herbie Goes Bananas.

I loved Herbie to death. After Dumbo, he's probably my favorite Disney creation of all time. But while the first film is just an absolute hoot of a movie, the sequels were, for the most part, pretty dopey. Herbie Rides Again was OK, but Ken Berry and Stephanie Powers couldn't hold a candle to Dean Jones and Michele Lee. And where the hell were Buddy Hackett and the freakin' racing bear? Shame shame. Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo brought Dean Jones back into the fray and threw in Don Knotts for good measure, but the film was a pretty weak rehash of the original.

Which brings us to Herbie Goes Bananas. Blerg. This film is emblematic of everything that was wrong with much of Disney's live action product in the '70s. Simply put: it's horrifically cheesy, and not in an endearing way. The plot finds Pete Stanchek, the nephew of Dean Jones's character from the original, and his pal Davie Johns in Mexico, picking up Herbie on their way to a race in Brazil. While signing for the anthropomorphic little Volkswagen at a local port, they find themselves the victims of a brutally annoying little puke named Paco, a homeless orphan and pickpocket who finds himself in trouble when he also nicks a wallet from a group of jewel thieves containing some kind of secret negatives that hold the location of a vast Incan treasure horde. Paco hides inside Herbie's luggage compartment, evading La Migra and... no, I'm just kidding. Somehow they all end up in a "Love Boat" wannabe with Harvey Korman and Cloris Leachman, but then they make Herbie walk the plank, his screams of terror apparently lost on the cold-hearted curs of the ocean. Then Paco and Herbie end up in Panama, and Paco ends up giving the poor VW a paint job and employs the car as slave labor. Then Herbie gets in a bullfight, while the two original protagonists (Pete and Davie, remember them?) run around and fall about in cheap physical gags that are more embarrassing to watch than the director's cut of Perfect.

Or something. There's not much in terms of plot, little in terms of entertainment, and nothing in terms of redeeming value.

It's not like the original film is some sort of Fellini-esque masterpiece, but man, compared to Herbie Goes Bananas it's like watching La Strada or something. This sequel is just a freaky mess, and in fact violates several critical articles of the Geneva Convention. After watching this turdburger I felt like Colonel Braddock with the rat bag over his head. Not even the presence of John " Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Vernon and Alex "I was making my bones while you were going out with cheerleaders" Rocco as the two main baddies does anything to assuage this litany of misery.

The damn kid gives Herbie a vomitous paintjob that stays there for more than half the movie!

Eh... what can you do? While the film grossed a healthy (for 1980) $18 million, it pretty much sank the entire Herbie "franchise". A wretched and short-lived television series followed a few years later, while a made-for-TV remake appeared in 1997, starring Bruce Campbell and directed by Bring It On's Peyton Reed. It now looks like Disney is going to remake The Love Bug again in 2005, this time set in the NASCAR world and starring Lindsay Lohan, who apparently comes equipped with her own airbags. I don't know if the end result is going to be worth a damn, but I'd bet the farm that it ends up a billion times more entertaining than Herbie Goes Bananas.

The DVD

Video:

Herbie Goes Bananas is presented in a butchered fullscreen presentation. The film's original theatrical aspect ratio is 1.85:1, but I don't know if this transfer is pan-and-scan or open-matted. I'd lean towards P&S, as the picture looks sufficiently cropped throughout. Either way, it's not the original aspect ratio, and that's just wrong. The film suffers from some degradation in various film elements. Grain structure is fairly evident, but there's evidence of nicks and wears throughout. Weak blue screen shots and lousy stock footage make the film look worse than it is, as the image demonstrates reasonably strong color levels and detail. Overall, the transfer is neither impressively strong or sufficiently weak. It mostly looks good, but there are some evident flaws. The fullscreen aspect ratio pretty much ruins the entire affair, though.

Audio:

The audio is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. There's nothing too dynamic or impressive in this soundtrack. Dialog levels are fine, while there is little expansion of the soundstage, directionality, or discreet imaging. The overall effect is pretty flat, with some occasional peaking in the surrounds. Otherwise, there's nothing here that couldn't have been adequately handled in a strong 2.0 track.

Extras:

Nothing, save for a preview trailer for other Disney DVD product.

Final Thoughts

Run far, far away. Nothing to see here, just move along. Herbie Goes Bananas offers absolutely nothing for the Herbie fan, Disney completist, or general movie watcher. Add to this assertion the facts that the transfer is not the OAR and there are no extras to speak of whatsoever. You're much better off watching the director's cut of Perfect with the sound turned off while listening to a Philip Michael Thomas album on your headphones. In August. With the air conditioner turned off. While being pummeled with a bowling pin by a surly clown. Avoid like the plague.
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