Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Thirty Days of Disney Movies, Day Three - Favorite Comedy

When I first started thinking about my favorite Disney comedy, only one movie popped into my head, even though I hadn't seen it in years.

The Love Bug.

A quick visit to Amazon ($1.99 video on demand--sweet!) reminded me exactly why I liked the movie so much. This 1968 fantasy about a Volkswagen Beetle with a personality of its own is funny, sweet and absolutely charming.

Down on his luck race car driver Jim Douglas (Dean Jones) can't win a race to save his life. Through a strange series of events, he acquires an old VW from crafty auto dealer--and racing rival--Peter Thorndyke (delightfully evil David Tomlinson). Soon, Douglas discovers there's more to this little Bug than just pistons and bolts as the car starts accelerating and steering of its own accord. Douglas dismisses the car's antics as nothing that can't be fixed with a few tools, and commences to get it in racing shape with the help of his best friend Tennessee (goofy, muffin-faced Buddy Hackett). Then, suddenly, Douglas starts winning. But, is it because of his skills as a driver....or does this magical Beetle (which Tennessee has named Herbie) have his own ticket to ride?

Disney dished out a lot of benign, cookie cutter comedies in the 1960s and '70s, but none that could match the fun of The Love Bug. It's not a laugh-out-loud comedy, although there are a number of decent chuckles during the racing sequences, especially those tied to Herbie's extreme dislike of Thorndyke. Mostly, it's a movie that makes you smile, whether at the absurdity of a car that thinks it's human, or at the sweet romance that blossoms between Douglas and Thorndyke's plucky assistant Carole (Michele Lee). The movie makes you feel good--and it reminded me I need to stop waiting so long between viewings.

Dean Jones and Herbie

This is part three of my 30-day Disney movie challenge. In tomorrow's installment, "the best doggone dog in the west" stars in my favorite Disney drama.