After three breezy episodes in ten years, this fourth film about Herbie the Love Bug was the one that finally put the skids under the series.
The novelty of having a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own was already showing signs of wearing off in Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) when an “exotic” location was used to cover the holes in the plot.
However, the sights of South America are not enough to distract us from the flimsiness of this story, as Herbie makes his way aboard a luxury cruise liner from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to Rio de Janeiro where a couple of American racers, Pete (Stephan W Burns) and Davie (Charles Martin Smith) plan to enter him in the Grande Premio de Brazil – the Brazilian equivalent of the Grand Prix.
Hiding in Herbie’s boot – or ‘trunk’ for our American friends – is a 10-year-old Mexican pickpocket, Paco (Joaquin Garay III) who is being pursued by a gang of crooks (led by John Vernon) who want the film he picked from their pocket of some ancient Inca ruins that they want to loot.
Along the way, Herbie runs afoul of the cruise ship’s Captain (Harvey Korman), does double-duty as a taxi in Panama and is bedecked with bananas to throw the thieves off his tail.
Meanwhile, Pete pitches a rich widow (Cloris Leachman) to sponsor Herbie’s racing career and romances her mousy, scholarly niece, Melissa (Elyssa Davalos). But even fine comic actors such as Leachman and Korman are unable to raise a smile here.
Stephan W Burns
Charles Martin Smith
Joaquin Garay III