With there being 5 films in the Herbie franchise for me to review, you’d have thought that I would have reviewed another one of those films since 2013, but nope, I haven’t. So, it’s time to rectify that! Here’s my long overdue review for the franchise’s first sequel: the 1974 film, Herbie Rides Again!
And remember, SPOILERS AHEAD!
As the movie begins we witness the character, Alonzo Hawk, played by Keenan Wynn, blowing up a bunch of buildings on properties that he owns. Mr. Hawk is a greedy, unscrupulous real estate mogul previously seen in the Disney films, The Absent-Minded Professor and Son of Flubber.
Being the type of man he is, he does anything he can to own any piece of property that he wants! One place however that he hasn’t been able to get his hands on yet is a firehouse wherein resides an elderly woman, “Grandma” Steinmetz, played by Helen Hayes. She resides there as it was where her late fire captain husband used to live as well as her nephew, Tennessee Steinmetz, in the film’s prequel.
Despite any offer Mr. Hawk makes, Mrs. Steinmetz refuses to sell. It’s time for Mr. Hawk to bring out the heavy artillery! As luck would have it, Mr. Hawk’s naive nephew from back east, Willoughby Whitfield, played by Ken Berry, is in town! He’s just out of law school and looking to work for his “Uncle Alonzo” of whom he has a misguided positive perception. Mr. Hawk manipulates Willoughby’s naivety and convinces him to get Mrs. Steinmetz to sell her house.
Willoughby, eager to please his uncle as well as do good on his first case, heads to the firehouse. The Volkswagen Beetle, Herbie, is parked outside and rolls onto Willoughby’s foot when he arrives. Willoughby assumes that the parking brake wasn’t left on, but when Mrs. Steinmetz comes outside and scolds Herbie for it, Willoughby figures that Mrs. Steinmetz doesn’t quite have all of her marbles!
Anyway, Mrs. Steinmetz invites Willoughby in and treats him to tea. She’s really a sweet old lady and is disappointed when she finds out that Willoughby is from Mr. Hawk’s company. Not long afterwards, flight attendant, Nicole Harris, played by Stefanie Powers, enters the house and gives Willoughby a greeting that she feels Mr. Hawk’s men deserve!
Nicole lives with Mrs. Steinmetz in the firehouse as she was evicted when Mr. Hawk bought the place where she lived. So she’s particularly protective of Mrs. Steinmetz and does all she can to prevent her from having the same fate! Willoughby, on the other hand, is just so discouraged about how bad his first case is doing and tries to persuade Nicole how it’s bad for Mrs. Steinmetz to live here and how it affects her mental state, etc. Nicole realizes that Willoughby doesn’t believe that Herbie is indeed sentient, so she decides to take him for a spin. Let’s just say after that moment, Willoughby becomes a believer!
Afterwards Willoughby apologizes to Nicole
and takes her to lunch. The lunch actually goes really well until Willoughby mentions how he is Mr. Hawk’s nephew. This infuriates Nicole as she thought he was only an employee of Mr. Hawk’s, not a relative, and she gives him another greeting that she thinks he deserves!
The next day, Willoughby (having finally been convinced how much of a heel Mr. Hawk is) decides to head back hom to Missouri and leave this whole firehouse business. He calls Mr. Hawk and tells him of his plans (which Mr. Hawk isn’t particularly thrilled to hear).
Mr. Hawk’s next plan is to steal Mrs. Steinmetz’s car, Herbie, hoping that she would be affected by the loss of it. Little does Mr. Hawk know that Herbie is sentient and ain’t gonna let himself get stolen!
Meanwhile, Nicole goes to the airport and when Willoughby sees her, he decides to stay and help her and Mrs. Steinmetz fight his uncle. Willoughby and Nicole fall more in love with each other whilst Mr. Hawk now has his lawyers trying to steal Herbie. That proves unfruitful as well as Herbie outruns all of them!
Mr. Hawk’s next plan of action is to confiscate all of Mrs. Steinmetz’s possessions and store them in his warehouse. Later that night, she, Willoughby, and Nicole, break into the warehouse and retrieve all their stuff with Herbie’s help. They get chased by some security guards, but manage to evade them successfully.
The next day while Nicole is at work, Mrs. Steinmetz decides to go up to talk to Mr. Hawk herself (via a window washing machine) whilst Willoughby tries to stop her. But, she and Herbie have her way and show Mr. Hawk what they think of him.
Later on, Herbie plagues Mr. Hawk’s mind as he starts to get strange nightmares about him.
Mr. Hawk decides to hire someone to just demolish the firehouse, but a mix-up results in the guy demolishing Mr. Hawk’s house instead!
Mr. Hawk is down to his final battle plan: he pretends to give up even going so far as to have the story printed in the paper and phoning Mrs. Steinmetz to “apologize” for what he’s done. So while their guard is down, he comes to the firehouse with a battalion of construction machines ready to tear the place down once and for all! Willoughby and Nicole are out on a date while Mrs. Steinmetz is home at the firehouse on a date with a gentleman she has recently met, Mr. Judson, played by John McIntire. They both try their best to hold off Mr. Hawk and his “army” as best as they can.
Meanwhile, Herbie has driven off to find Willoughby and Nicole to take them back to the firehouse to fight off Mr. Hawk and his men. Along the way, Herbie picks up his own army of Volkswagen Beetles!
The film ends with a climactic “battle” between our heroes and Mr. Hawk’s “army”. Mr. Hawk is then picked up by the police and taken to see a psychiatrist after claiming that Herbie is alive. Mrs. Steinmetz gets to live in the firehouse with her new beau, Mr. Judson (apparently), and Nicole and Willoughby get married with Herbie as their wedding vehicle!
And that was Herbie Rides Again! It honestly was quite an enjoyable, fun comedic film! That’s probably the drawback though: since it’s a comedy, the plot is very thin. It’s really just about the antics that Mr. Hawk goes through to get the firehouse destroyed. There’s nothing else to it, really. Heck, Herbie isn’t even really an important character in this film, rather he seems to be more of a tool that the other characters utilize every so often.
The performances were great with Keenan Wynn being enjoyably erratic, Helen Hayes being the quintessential grandmotherly type, Ken Berry being his usual naive self, and Stefanie Powers having a better role than she did in The Boatniks.
So, the question is how come I like this movie much more than The Love Bug, which I gave an “F” to, even though The Love Bug had a much more deep and detailed story? I think it’s because The Love Bug thought it was being something super amazing, but failed at it, whilst this film knows it’s just a funny, silly little film and gives us exactly that. If you’re a fan of the Herbie franchise, Herbie Rides Again make for an enjoyable viewing!
(You can click on the image below for an enlarged version of my rating sheet.)
The next review will be posted on July 10, 2017.