Wynn Gets Bugged
After his owner headed to Europe to race for a big team Herbie, the loveable VW Beetle has ended up belonging to the eccentric Mrs. Steinmetz (Helen Hayes - Airport) a dear old lady who lives in a ramshackle fire station with her granddaughter Nicole (Stefanie Powers - The Magnificent Seven Ride!). That old fire station and Mrs. Steinmetz are a thorn in the side of developer Alonzo Hawk (Keenan Wynn) as it is preventing him from building his latest supermarket. In order to get her to sell up Hawk sends his nice guy nephew Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry) to sweet talk her into selling but not only learns from Nicole that his Uncle is unscrupulous but that Herbie also has a mind of his own.
Taking into account that "Herbie Rides Again" is a children's movie from the 1970s you have to say it works. It delivers plenty of comedy with over the top characters and car stunts which are all played out in such an unrealistic manner than it would make little children laugh. It also has plenty of pratfalls as the bad guys fall foul of the good guys as is the case when Willoughby is taught a lesson by Herbie then Hawk is also taught a lesson.
But along with being a children's movie "Herbie Rides Again" is also a family movie and this is where it starts to fall down. On one hand it is good that they just didn't repeat what we watched in "The Love Bug" and tried to come up with something new but what they came up with lacked the charm and story of the first movie. Also the characters lack the charm of the first movie and whilst we are meant to have some romance between Nicole and Willoughby the chemistry between Stefanie Powers and Ken Berry is lacking. And on the subject of those two the comic violence of Nicole disliking him because he is Hawk's nephew is too abrupt as she swings punches at him with no notice. Basically "Herbie Rides Again" struggles as a family movie despite working as fun for children.
But what is very clear is that whilst Stefanie Powers and Ken Berry are supposed to be the stars of this sequel it is Helen Hayes who makes this movie. Hayes delivering that dear little old lady routine is a pure joy and she has the better chemistry with Herbie which leads to some of the movies most charming scenes.
What this all boils down to is that "Herbie Rides Again" is a good sequel if you are looking for something for your children to watch but it struggles as family entertainment.