Should I Watch..? 'Herbie Goes Bananas'

Updated on February 14, 2019
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Film's DVD cover
Film's DVD cover | Source

What's the big deal?

Herbie Goes Bananas is a family comedy film released in 1980 and is the fourth film in Disney's Herbie series. The film follows Herbie - a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own - on the trail of gold thieves in Mexico whilst on his way to a race in Rio de Janeiro with his latest owners. The film stars Harvey Korman, Cloris Leachman, Charles Martin Smith, Stephen W. Burns, Elyssa Davalos and John Vernon while the director was Disney veteran Vincent McEveety. The film unfortunately tanked with critics as well as audiences with total takings of just $18 million and many claiming the film was the probable end of the franchise. In fact, the most famous Beetle in the world would be dragged back into Disney's studios and only emerged for an ill-fated TV movie and an attempted reboot in 2005, Herbie: Fully Loaded.

Unforgivable

1 star for Herbie Goes Bananas

What's it about?

Herbie once again is handed on to a new owner by racing driver Jim Douglas to his nephew, Pete Stancheck. Agreeing to pick the car up in Mexico, Pete travels with his friend Davy "DJ" Jones and despite initially being disappointed, the pair quickly discover that Herbie is no ordinary car as it appears to have a mind all of its own. After befriending streetwise orphan Paco, the trio decide to head to the famous Brazil Grand Prêmio race down in Rio de Janeiro and travel via the cruise ship Sun Princess helmed by Captain Blythe.

Needing an injection of cash in order to compete in the race, Pete and DJ befriend anthropologist Melissa and her extravagant aunt Louise who is desperately hunting for a husband on board the ship. Meanwhile, Paco and Herbie fall foul of a trio of gold smugglers which lead to numerous misadventures. Can the car manage to get out of this scrape or is this one adventure too many for the mischievous machine?

Trailer

Main Cast

Actor
Role
Cloris Leachman
Aunt Louise Trends
Charles Martin Smith
Davy "DJ" Jones
John Vernon
Prindle
Stephen W. Burns
Pete Stancheck
Elyssa Davalos
Melissa
Harvey Korman
Captain Blythe
Joaquin Garay III
Paco

Technical Info

Director
Vincent McEveety
Screenplay
Don Tait*
Running Time
100 minutes
Release Date (UK)
9th July, 1981
Rating
U
Genre
Adventure, Comedy, Family
*based on characters created by Gordon Buford
Hate to say it but it was around this film that the series' wheels came off, almost literally.
Hate to say it but it was around this film that the series' wheels came off, almost literally. | Source

What's to like?

Oh boy. This could be tricky.

The film strives to achieve the same family-friendly atmosphere that typified previous films and by and large, it succeeds. Humour is strictly in the overblown slapstick vein with Korman and Leachman providing most of the laughs as seasoned comic veterans, even with material as shoddy as this. They are certainly more entertaining than Herbie's owners who completely fail to make any impression on this viewer. Dean Jones' winning charm is totally absent here, I'm sorry to say. Even Herbie himself, having already been through three earlier movies, seems bereft of new ideas but I suppose there is only so much they can do with a knackered VW Beetle other than throw into a matador's arena for quick laughs.

The feeling I get from this film is one that people who had fond memories of the original Love Bug now might have children of their own and wish to reacquaint themselves with their childhood hero. But nostalgia is often a cruel mistress and she twists the knife in here, reducing Herbie from a thing of magic to just a gimmicky car with little hint of personality. But for very young viewers, the film is an adequate time-passer with basic humour squeezed in and little plot to distract them.

Fun Facts

  • The film used a total of 26 vehicles to play Herbie including one that walks the plank that they simply dropped into the sea. It was never recovered.
  • The film marked the final film appearance of veteran actress Iris Adrian, a actress whose career spanned seven decades. Coincidentally, she also appeared in The Love Bug in 1968.
  • Herbie is only referred to by his name once at the beginning of the film. After that, he is called Ocho after Paco uses the name.

What's not to like?

However, viewers of this film older than six might find this hard-going. I know you're not meant to hate a Herbie film, revered by Disney lovers among their considerable back catalogue. But this film is a hugely disappointing pile of scrap with little effective humour and a confusing plot that doesn't make much sense at all. The race in Brazil is completely forgotten about halfway through the picture and the film resorts to the same 'incompetent thieves' subplot used in the previous film Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo. But it isn't just the bad guys who are stupid - one of the characters is so dumb, he has to ask why Herbie is called Ocho for the majority of the film. Clearly, basic mathematics is beyond them.

Sadly, the film isn't just a wasted opportunity or crippled by a lack of new ideas. Herbie Goes Bananas actually engages in a vast number of south-of-the-border stereotyping and cliché-digging, giving it an uncomfortable vibe in these troubled times. Disney may have a slightly suspect history when it comes to racism but this is one of its more outrageous examples with ignorance liberally splashed all over the picture. It feels like a half-hearted effort which is a sad way for such a beloved character to come to an end, however temporary. But Disney have twice attempted to get the engine running again without success so I suspect that a more thorough restoration job is required for everyone's favourite Volkswagen.

Leachman (left) and Korman (right) are more interesting than the lead actors but can't salvage a film as dreadfully unfunny as this.
Leachman (left) and Korman (right) are more interesting than the lead actors but can't salvage a film as dreadfully unfunny as this. | Source

Should I watch it?

Only die-hard fans of the series and very young children will get anything from this which feels lazy, devoid of imagination and lacking the good-willed charm of the earlier films - which weren't exactly perfect either. But this would be the end of the road for Herbie and deservingly so. Not even Lindsay Lohan's ginger-haired sparkle could rescue the series after this depressing and dispirited outing.

Great For: viewers under six, forgiving fans of the series, killing a franchise

Not So Great For: older viewers, fans of The Love Bug, VW Beetle owners suddenly embarrassed by their vehicle

What else should I watch?

The reason that The Love Bug is so beloved by fans is the old-school charm that exists in the film. It's a simple story of good vs evil taking place on a race track with square-jawed American Dean Jones taking on David Tomlinson's thoroughly English baddie. With fine comic support from Buddy Hackett and a romantic subplot tacked on, the film is much better than it's silly sequel Herbie Rides Again. Ditching the racing element isn't a good idea for a film about a racing car as Herbie is turned into a four-wheeled foe against villainous property developer Keenan Wynn.

Thankfully, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo recovers some of the lost magic by having Jones return to the series as well as having a race again. But Buddy Hackett is replaced by Don Knotts who isn't as funny and has Herbie falling in love with a Lancia while still outwitting a pair of incompetent jewel thieves. Like I said, there is only so much you can do when your lead character is a car but that didn't stop Disney launching a big-screen reboot in 2005 with Herbie: Fully Loaded after a 1997 TV movie failed to take off. Lohan plays Herbie's latest owner who decides to enter him into a NASCAR race and, I'm guessing, hilarity ensues.

Questions & Answers

    © 2018 Benjamin Cox

    Soap Box

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      No comments yet.

      working

      This website uses cookies

      As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, reelrundown.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

      For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://reelrundown.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

      Show Details
      Necessary
      HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
      LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
      Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
      AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
      HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
      Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
      CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
      Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
      Features
      Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
      Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
      Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
      PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
      MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
      Marketing
      Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
      Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
      Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
      Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
      Statistics
      Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
      ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
      Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
      ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)