I am, now I come to think of it, surprised that there is no website detailing old Baskin-Robbins flavours. You’d think there would be, because that sounds exactly like something someone would be obsessed with, but no. Therefore I cannot tell you what Monte Carlo Stripe was. I did a bit of poking around, and someone seems to remember it as having a raspberry ribbon, the eponymous stripe, but they didn’t actually say what the base was. Vanilla, probably? I think it’s the second time we’ve come across a Disney movie that had a flavour, and I guess we’ll never know about either of them.
So Herbie’s back again. This time with Jim Douglas (Dean Jones), but I guess Buddy Hackett was busy, so instead the mechanic is Wheely Applegate, played by Don Knotts. They’re in Paris for a comeback race from Paris to Monte Carlo. Like you do. Meanwhile, a priceless diamond is stolen. The thieves (Roy Kinnear and Bernard Fox) end up hiding the diamond in Herbie’s gas tank. Herbie falls in love with a Lancia Scorpion, whose driver, Diane Darcy (Julie Sommars), has chemistry with Jim. But who of course doesn’t believe there’s anything special about Herbie.
There are a lot of plots here. A lot. The movie is almost exactly the same length as The Love Bug—there’s a difference of literally three minutes—but it feels far longer, simply because there’s so much going on and none of it feels as interesting. There’s an attempt to set up Bruno Von Stickle (Eric Braeden) as a villain; you might know him from his nearly 3500 episodes of The Young and the Restless, and I hope his character has more to do there. He and one of the other drivers try to block Herbie, and they’re so unimportant to the plot that I literally could not tell you who the other driver was.
Diane is also not as interesting as she could be. It’s quite clear she’s been having a lot of trouble with people who don’t think she can possibly be good at being a racecar driver, and that’s something that would take digging into. But we don’t get it. She mentions it, and Jim seems to agree that she is legitimately having those problems, and then it’s into the vague flirtation. Which is only vague, and doesn’t mention that, you know, he got married in the first movie. What happened to his wife? Who knows? We don’t!
Now, I’ve mentioned before that I’d quite like to see a remake of the original Love Bug starring Ben Affleck as Jim Douglas and Matt Damon as Tennessee Steinmetz. I have also said that I’d rather they remade movies that aren’t very good. And, yeah, this qualifies. There are lots of ways to do it—but pretty much all of them are going to require jettisoning plots, because this movie has far, far too many plots. Frankly, most of them aren’t done well. There are no good villains, and while I don’t think they’re necessary to a good movie, there are five people set up as villains. Jacques Marin is fine as Inspector Bouchet, but I’d rather watch him in Charade.
So how would I remake it? First off, Herbie doesn’t need a love interest. He’s a car. So okay, let’s keep the jewel thief but make him the other driver. Cast Christoph Waltz, maybe, if we’re going with Sinister German. Which I think we are, but who can even tell? And have Jim be the mentor for a female driver, played by [rolls dice] Zendaya. He’s got to convince her to trust her instincts as well as trusting Herbie, because we don’t need another sentient car unless, like, Herbie is her car’s mentor or something, which would just be weird.
If you have to have Sinister German Driver and Crooked Police Detective, let it be a surprise to us that they aren’t working together or at least that the Crooked Police Detective is actually crooked. Maybe we can trust him and worry about the driver, and then it turns out that the driver gives up first place to rescue Zendaya or something. We can keep Bumbling Crooks, but don’t focus so much on them. Hell, here’s a bold idea—jettison Jim Douglas and keep Tennessee. Not Wheely; he can’t carry a plot. But the wise mechanic who really understands Herbie? That could work.
And maybe that would let us get to the root of what’s really weird about Herbie. It’s not that he’s a sentient car. It’s that communication with him is pretty much one-way. He’s got a personality. A strong one. I don’t think anyone familiar with the first movie can fail to recognize when he’s doing things that are out of character for him, which is a weird thought. But exactly how sentient is he? Is he more like a horse? So you can steer him, and if he didn’t have anywhere particular he wanted to go he’s cool with it? Or is he a person, because the logistics of that are something I hadn’t thought of before today.
Look, we all call Herbie a he because Tennessee was reminded of an uncle of his who was a former boxer with a nose roughly the shape of the front of a VW. Not a lot of people remember that. I didn’t remember that. But I tend to think of the “he” as “personalities aren’t an ‘it.'” Having him actually treated as masculine is weird. Having another car that is feminine is weird. This was the first I knew that there were cars with headlights that were covered and uncovered, because they use it so that Herbie’s love interest has “eyelashes.” Gender essentialism for cars?
Frankly, it kind of undermines the idea that Diane is the equal to a male driver, because Jim’s got Herbie and she’s got the car that identifies as female. I guess this is fixed in the Lindsay Lohan movie, but I’ve never seen it. (You could pay me to by contributing to my Patreon or Ko-fi, though!) She can drive in the boys’ race, but she can only drive a girl car! Also, you know, she loses control and Herbie has to rescue her car, so there’s that.