The action moved from the racetrack to the streets of San Francisco for this follow-up to the 1969 blockbuster The Love Bug.
Herbie Rides Again not only brought back the sentient, lovable VW Bug Herbie, but the film also featured the return of Alonzo Hawk, the villain of Disney’s The Absent-Minded Professor (1961) and Son of Flubber. Keenan Wynn reprised the role he had created in the two “flubber” films.
This time, the scheming Hawk is trying to build a gigantic skyscraper in downtown San Fran. The last remaining obstacle is feisty widow Mrs Steinmetz (Helen Hayes), who owns an old firehouse on the intended site.
Steinmetz’s equally-feisty niece, Nicole Harris (Stefanie Powers), joins her aunt in the fight. Hawk has the money and the henchmen, but the ladies have an ace up their sleeve: Herbie, the precocious and fearless VW Bug.
Hawk’s nephew and lawyer, Willoughby Whitfield (Ken Berry) switches over to team Steinmetz when he falls in love with Nicole, but even with the three humans and one car working together, Hawk is simply too powerful.
But rest easy, little ones, because Herbie has friends. Powerful friends. Volkswagen friends. The united Bugs of San Francisco turn up for a climactic battle with Hawk’s bulldozers, winners take all.
Rather than simply remaking The Love Bug, Disney created a completely different movie, similar only in its light, slapstick tone.
Faced with the question of “what else do you do with an intelligent car?” the moviemakers turned the zany dial up a notch, throwing in bits like an Alonzo Hawk nightmare with Herbie as a stalking warrior.
The wacky comedy went over big, as evidenced by the filming of two more sequels.