A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Love Bug is a 1968 comedy about a Volkswagen Bug that seems to come to life when a struggling race car driver takes the wheel. There are some moments of dated humor rooted in stereotyping. For instance, Asian American characters speak in broken English, keep dried squid in the passenger seat, use an abacus for math, and their appearance is greeted with "Chopsticks"-like background music. In one scene, Herbie, in an imitation of suicide, is shown hanging precariously off the edge of the Golden Gate Bridge and must be talked down. The villain gets Herbie "drunk" on the "Irish Coffee" he had been drinking with Herbie's mechanic; the mechanic later makes reference to Herbie being hungover. Some jokes involving hippies who act like they might be high on something; one cop tells another cop who is behaving strangely that he has been "on that Haight-Ashbury beat too long." Cigarette smoking. Reckless driving, although exaggerated and comical.
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What's the story?
Meet Herbie, a VW Beetle with a mind of its own -- one that kids will be instantly taken with. In this, the first -- and best-- of the four movies starring the lovable car, Herbie is rescued from his mean owner Mr. Tomlinson (Peter Thorndyke) by nice-guy Jim (Dean Jones). Herbie and Jim become fast friends – and fast race car drivers as they win race after race. When Tomlinson decides he'll stop at nothing to get Herbie back, Jim, the woman he's sweet on (Michele Lee), their friend Tennessee (Buddy Hackett), and the lovable VW bug are in for one wild ride.
Is it any good?
While 1968's THE LOVE BUG shows its age, it still provides lots of entertainment. This movie seems to exist in a different Disney universe from that of the studio's earlier features: one populated by hippies, mock-mystic mechanics, and pants-wearing career women.
Peter Thorndyke makes a fine villain: oily, bullying, and deliciously underhanded. Buddy Hackett's Tennessee, on the other hand, isn't nearly as much fun, and audiences will likely wince at the racial stereotyping presented by Mr. Wu. Kids, of course, are meant to identify with Herbie, the Love Bug himself.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about stereotyping. How does the movie resort to stereotyping for the sake of humor? How is such stereotyping a reflection of when the movie was made?
While a kids' movie, how does the movie sneak in more "adult" jokes for older audiences?
Does the movie glamorize reckless driving, or is it obviously played up and exaggerated for comedic effect? Why?
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