The silly Walt Disney Productions franchise that began with The Love Bug (1968) ground to a halt with this enervated installment, which was the final big-screen appearance of sentient VW Bug “Herbie” until the 1997 remake of The Love Bug. In Herbie Goes Bananas, the titular car is bequeathed to Pete (Stephen W. Burns), whom we’re told is the nephew of the character played in previous flicks by Dean Jones. For convoluted reasons, Pete must travel to Mexico so he can retrieve Herbie from storage. Traveling with his buddy D.J. (Charles Martin Smith), Pete falls victim to Paco (Joaquin Garay III), a street urchin who steals Pete’s wallet. The plot also involves a trio of criminals seeking to rob gold from an Incan ruin, as well as D.J.’s horny aunt Louise (Cloris Leachman), who Pete to marry her nerdy niece Melissa (Elyssa Davalos). There’s even room in the storyline for bumbling seaman Captain Blythe (Harvey Korman), who endures Louise’s manic sexual overtures. Improbably, Herbie ties these disparate characters together. Most of the picture depicts Herbie’s adventures with Paco, hence a montage set to a ghastly song about friendship. In a typically overwrought sequence, Herbie zooms through the cargo hold of Blythe’s ship while trying to free Paco from a cage, causing so much damage that Blythe buries Herbie at sea. Later, Herbie surfaces in the Panama Canal, then reunites with his buddy Paco. Yeesh. The comedy vets in the cast strain to make slaptsick bits and verbal gags work, and the pros playing the villains (Richard Jaeckel, Alex Rocco, John Vernon) strive for Keystone Kops-style choreographed ineptitude, but Herbie Goes Bananas is all about bombarding the audience with changes of scenery, familiar faces, and FX, as if spectacle can compensate for the lack of a proper storyline.
Herbie Goes Bananas: LAME