July 21st, 2005

Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Herbie: Fully Loaded" Disney and Lohan's 3rd film

It has been over a year since Lindsey Lohan's last
movie, "Mean Girls." which can be a lifetime for
teenagers. In her latest movie, the teen star returns
to the familiar territory of Walt Disney cinematic
remakes. Her core audience is not riding with the
actress in "Herbie Fully Loaded." That is too bad
because "Herbie Fully Loaded" is a fun summertime
movie nonetheless.

Herbie is a 43-year-old Volkswagen beetle that has
driven the likes of Dean Jones, Helen Hayes and Don
Knotts in cinematic adventures during the 1960's and
1970s. In the year 2005, Herbie is destitute and is
about to become scrap. After graduating from
college, Maggie Peyton (Lohan) is visiting her father
(Michael Keaton), a famous NASCAR Champion who is
struggling to develop a race team. The Peyton
family is in direct competition with Trip Murphy (Matt
Dillon), a racer that is a mini corporation created by
sponsorships and endorsements. When Herbie proves his
metal against Trip Murphy in a street race, Murphy
plots public revenge.

This Walt Disney movie takes on Shakespearean comedic
elements with mistaken identity, character growth and
family reconciliation. It is the typical Disney movie
with a fast placed plot, empathetic characters with
common problems that the characters can solve with the
audience. There are a couple of thrilling moments and
a few tears are shed between the laughs. Cornball,
yes, but it is Disney cornball at their corporate
best.

Unlike the movies from the 1960s and 1970s, this fully
loaded Herbie is given facial expressions, revealing
both sadness and happiness. Similar to when Lassie
limps home to her master, Herbie the Volkswagen Beetle
generates more sympathy than his human counterparts.

This is not to say that the highly paid actors do
not do their job. It is that we have seen Lohan,
Keaton and Dillon perform the same shtick as before.
Lohan’s character has the same problems that a “Confession of
a Teenaged Drama Queen” did not absolve. Despite the
tabloid avalanche, Lohan remains a likeable leading
lady. Michael Keaton returns to his “Mr.
Mom” roots and Dillon plays yet another pretty bad
boy.

One would like to know how this Love Bug became so
impoverished by the new film’s opening. A veteran of
four motion pictures, a TV movie and a short-lived
television series, it is too bad that the box office
does not merit a sequel to “Herbie:Fully Loaded.”
Perhaps rival studios could get together and meld two
distinctly different genres, a kids movie and horror
based on a Stephen King novel. “Herbie meets
Christine” could be the ultimate scary battle of the
sexes, a 1963 Volkswagen beetle romancing a 1958
Plymouth Fury. Think of these children being nursed
by Don Knotts and Jessica Simpson!
Cinema Dave  Swashbuckling ournalist and

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" - Dahl and Burton are made for each other at the IMAX

Director Tim Burton is in his element in the world of
Roald Dahl's "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory."
Given his work in "Edward Scissorhands," "Batman,"
and "Sleepy Hollow," Burton has a visual acuity
for mythic proportions. This is even more apparent
when his movies are projected on the 60-foot IMAX
screen. "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" opened
to good box office during a non holiday weekend, but
to really absorb Roald Dahl's world, the best seat in
the house to see "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"
is at an IMAX Theatre.

Frank L. Baum, J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Roald Dahl
(and recently J.K. Rowling) have been successful with
the literate youth market for many reasons. These
authors develop narratives, interesting characters and
creative ideas that comment on the nature of humanity.
These stories endure year after year because these
authors write directly to the individual, and not talk
down to their respective audience as rubes. Each one
of these authors are frequently categorized for being
subversive by critics who frequently do not read books
like "The Wizard of Oz," "The Hobbit," "The
Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and "Charlie and
the Chocolate Factory."

Charlie Bucket (Freddie Highmore) lives in poverty
with his loving parents (Helena Bonham Carter and Noah
Taylor) and four bedridden grandparents. Elusive
chocolate mogul Willie Wonka (Johnny Depp) announces a
contest in which five lucky individuals can take a
tour of his chocolate factory and win a mysterious
grand prize.

The contest takes the world by storm and the five
lucky winners are Violet Beaugarde (Annasophia Robb),
Augustus Gloop (Philip Wiegratz ), Veruca Salt (Julia
Winter), Mike Teevee (Jordan Fry) and, of course,
Charlie Bucket. Suffice to say, four out of five of
these children are brats. Little do these winners
know, Willie Wonka is an emotionally handicapped
individual with a secret agenda.

While not in Roald Dahl's book, Tim Burton and
screenwriter John August have added a subplot
explaining the origin of Willie Wonka’s weirdness. We
learn that Willie Wonka's passion for chocolate grew
from his conflict with his father, the dentist, Dr.
Wilbur Wonka (Christopher Lee). This additional
storyline provides the superficial story a satisfying
heart.

Tim Burton does a remarkable job with the film's
shifts of tone. As the bratty children receive their
comeuppance, the violence is diabolical and macabre.
Shortly after each nightmarish action, Burton manages
to create moments of pure joy as the Ooompa Loompas
(Thousands of little people who are all played by one
actor, Deep Roy) burst into song. With lyrics by
Roald Dahl and orchestrated by Danny Elfman, these
songs sound both new and retro. Unlike the original
motion picture, "Willie Wonka and the Chocolate
Factory," which left the fate of the children open
ended; this movie humorously reveals the fate of the
four bratty children.

Given his fifth collaboration with Tim Burton, Johnny
Depp makes Willie Wonka a composite of Gene Wilder and
Michael Jackson. Depp's costar from "Finding
Neverland," (Freddie Highmore) underplays the role
and speaks with conviction during the film's corny
family scenes. As Charlie's most active Grandpa Joe
(David Kelly) proves that fairy tales can come true if
you remain young at heart.

Last, but not least, there is 83 year old Christopher
Lee as Willie Wonka's father. This veteran of over
250 motion pictures, the actor utilizes his baritone
voice to make words like "Caramel" and "Chocolate"
both seductive and disgusting at the same time. This
actor has a role in the last **Star Wars** movie, but
"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" is Christopher
Lee's best motion picture this cinematic summer of
2005.