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  • Writer's pictureJeff South

Other Summer Movies of the '80s: Herbie Goes Bananas

Released: June 27, 1980


Charles Martin Smith: D.J.

Cloris Leachman: Aunt Louise

Stephen W. Burns: Pete

John Vernon: Prindle

Harvey Korman: Captain Blythe

Elyssa Davalos: Melissa

Joaquin Garay III: Paco

Richard Jaeckel: Sheperd

Screenplay by Don Tait

Directed by Vincent McEveety

Rated G

If ever a cinematic universe deserved a dark, gritty reboot, it's Herbie the Love Bug. I'm thinking the Fast and Furious franchise here. Crazy car stunts. Ridiculous plot lines that escalate to absurd heights with each subsequent picture. And a lovable, seemingly sentient VW Beetle at the center of it all. Also, it's about family.

The summer of 1980 was a transitional time for me. Twelve years old when it started, thirteen when it ended, those months bridged my 7th and 8th grade school years. Kids my age were going to parties and kissing their girlfriends or boyfriends. I hung out the skating rink some weekends, but was often content at home watching The Incredible Hulk, The Dukes of Hazzard, and Buck Rodgers in the 25th Century (when is that going to get the reboot treatment?). I played baseball, too, and it was my first summer in Babe Ruth League, which proved to be an intimidating step up from Little League the previous two seasons. I was still a little kid at heart interacting with others my age and a little older who seemed to me maturing while I was stuck. I had the usual biological confusion of prepubescence and definitely was aware of the opposite sex, but I didn't know what to do about it. Girls were exotic and lovely and intimidating and they seemed to prefer boys who were wise in the ways of the world, such as the aforementioned parties and kissing and whatnot.

Movies were important, too, but also represented how mired in cultural purgatory I was. In the summer of 1980, my friends were getting to see stuff like The Blues Brothers, The Shining, and Used Cars. Or, they'd buy a ticket for a kiddie movie like Bon Voyage, Charilie Brown and sneak into The Blue Lagoon instead because they wanted to ogle Brooke Shields. My parents weren't keen on me seeing R-rated fare yet, even if it was with my older brothers, so I was caught in a netherworld between fun stuff and children's or "family" films. Yeah, I saw Airplane! and laughed my ass off, but every Airplane! there was a Herbie Goes Bananas.

I went to see a matinee, maybe with one of my brothers who surely would've rather had been at one of those sophisticated R-rated features at the drive-in like The Happy Hooker Goes to Washington (which I watched on HBO a couple of years later at their apartment). Herbie, that rascally Volkswagen Bug, had been the centerpiece of a series of live-action Disney movies throughout the seventies. I had seen The Love Bug, Herbie Rides Again, and Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, so it only made sense that I would indulge in the latest shenanigans. Plus, Herbie Goes Bananas featured Harvey Korman, who I loved on The Carol Burnett Show, especially in his scenes with Tim Conway. I had seen Conway with Don Knotts in The Private Eyes a couple of months earlier and loved that pairing in The Apple Dumpling Gang, a film that remains the very best of those Disney live action comedies of the '70s.

Here's the thing. I don't remember a thing about this movie other than, I think, Herbie got into a bullfight. Seriously, had I not looked up the cast list on IMDB and read the plot on Wikipedia, I wouldn't be able to describe the plot of the picture to anyone even if a gun was to my head and my life depended on it. That's actually the worst scenario imaginable for me to remember anything. I mean, if someone pointed a gun at my head and asked me to quote the lyrics to "Mr. Roboto" I'd just have to close my eyes and wait for the inevitable because a gun to my head is so much pressure!

Anyway, I don't remember the movie, but I remember how I felt after seeing it. I wanted to up my game with my movie tastes. No more kiddie stuff for me. Surely, I could demonstrate my maturity by catching Oh, Heavenly Dog! because Chevy Chase was supposed to be cool and hip and edgy. Or maybe Can't Stop the Music because the Village People were in that and what's more mature than a disco musical, amiright Saturday Night Fever?

Or, maybe I'd work up the courage to buy a ticket for one of those movies and sneak into The Blue Lagoon instead. Brooke Shields, after all.

Seriously, though. Edgy Herbie. Make it happen.

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