Picture from The Love Bug
Overall B+

Introduce your children to the movie that first infected the nation with Herbie fever. The Love Bug (starring Dean Jones, Michele Lee, and Buddy Hackett) was the film dŽbut for "the little white car with heart," and went on to inspire an epidemic of sequels.

Violence B
Sexual Content A-
Profanity A-
Substance Use C

MPAA Rating: G

The Love Bug

Hundreds of thousands of cars are made on the assembly lines each year--yet every once in a while, something special happens. Or at least that is Jim Douglas's (Dean Jones) explanation.

A former contender in some of the most prestigious car races, Jim's career has of late become a string of losses. Unwilling to accept he is getting too old for the sport, he continues to drive whatever he can, in whatever competition he can, including the degrading arena of demolition derbies. However, the possibility of a halt to his steady decline comes after he meets the "little white car."

The Volkswagen Beetle (although its official model name is never mentioned in the film) appears to have some quirky malfunctions, such as stopping and starting of its own accord, squirting oil on the feet of unfriendly bystanders and following people around like a stray dog. The aspiring racer interprets these erratic behaviors as a sign the vehicle has that "extra-something." Hoping it can put him back in the driver's seat, Jim begins entering it in tournaments.

But his roommate, Tennessee Steinmetz (Buddy Hackett), knows the mystery has nothing to do with mechanics. Privately believing inanimate objects can possess a heart and soul, the somewhat eccentric welder befriends the Bug and names it Herbie. When he promises the car a good home in return for great performance on the track, Jim suddenly finds himself on a winning streak.

This instant change of luck also attracts the attention of Mr. Peter Thorndyke (David Tomlinson), the dealer who originally sold the automobile to Jim. An avid racer himself, the socially conscious gentleman is appalled to be beaten by the bucket-of-bolts. Slyly, the sore loser assigns his attractive assistant, Carol Bennett (Michele Lee), to pay extra attention to this client in order to discover the secret of his success.

In the typical style of many Disney movies of this vintage, The Love Bug is full of silly antics, impossible stunts, and the inevitable happy ending. Fueled by a wager over ownership of the wonder-mobile, the screenplay includes ample amounts of racing footage and every foul play the conniving sales-man can concoct. Only the youngest of viewers are likely to be frightened by scenes where the vehicle and its passengers appear to be in peril, or when the dejected-feeling car threatens to throw itself off the Golden Gate Bridge. The rest of the audience will find plenty of chuckles amidst the intended good humor.

The only content concerns muddying the movie's family appeal may be a few instances of name-calling, portrayals of drunkenness from too much Irish Coffee, the mildest of sexual innuendo (Miss Bennett's shapely legs draw some attention), and derogatory cultural stereotypes. Capitalizing on its charm, the studio cranked out numerous Herbie sequels--or at least that's my explanation for this film franchise.