HERBIE Fully Loaded Studio:Disney Year:2005 RunTime:102 minutes Rating:G Aspect Ratio:16x9 encoded 1.85:1 (OAR) Audio:5.1 DD English, French, Spanish SpecialFeatures:Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Bloopers, Music Video… ReleaseDate:October 25, 2005 The Movie... I tried folks. I really did. I cued up the disc with an open mind, doing my very best to put on my “Herbie” cap and take in what was in store. While there are Disney remakes/sequels that I’ve very much enjoyed (Freaky Friday), I confess that this latest installment in the Herbie saga failed to impress me. Lindsay Lohan is looking her usual gorgeous self and does her usual excellent job of combining a romantic, sexy young female look with a personable, accessible style. Her accompanying romatic counterpart does an excellent job acting as well. Acting is generally good all around. For me, the barrier in this film is the prosaic writing and formulaic flavor: Everything from “bad guy wears black” to “protective father won’t let liberated daughter race” to “slapstick oil-squirts-in-face gag”…no pre-packaged film device was left unexploited. To its credit, this movie isn’t really trying to set the world standard for timeless storytelling. And it will do an excellent job entertaining kids and pre-teens in family-friendly style. Oh heck, I guess the original Herbie movies weren’t veritable classics either…so maybe it’s just being true to form. In any case, if you loved Herbie Fully Loaded—more power to ya—it’s just for me personally I was hoping for something a notch or two higher. And don’t get me started on the digital special effects (praised as they are by some, they still look stylistically out-of-place in a Herbie movie to my eyes). Also of interest for those out in Southern CA: FREE CAR WASHES TO CELEBRATE HERBIE: FULLY LOADED ON DVD!! WHAT: Herbie: Fully Loaded star, Herbie (the classic car) will host car washes to celebrate the DVD release. Vehicles will get a free wash while their owners get to check out the real Herbie. The classic car will then be auctioned off to the highest bidder on Ebay to benefit Variety – The Children’s Charity of Southern California. WHERE: Sunset Car Wash 7955 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood, CA WHEN: Tuesday, October 25th 8 AM – 11 AM Variety -The Children’s Charity of Southern California’s mission is to provide life-saving and life-enriching assistance to addicted, physically-challenged, neglected, abused, and/or underprivileged children throughout Southern California. Picture... Despite quite a few excellent DVD transfers from the studio as of late, Herbie Fully Loaded suffers from the dreaded HF fitering/edge-enhancement syndrome. Ringing on hard edges isn’t bad (noticed it just a few times) mostly because there aren’t many hard edges due to the HF filtering…but the image tends to distract the viewer with a slightly electronic-look on a large screen, and when viewed wide angle (as in a front projection theater or sitting close to a plasma or LCD monitor), the image softness leaves the viewer feeling unsatisfied. I’m really at a loss for why Disney consistently puts out such lackluster DVD’s of their live-action films. Whether it’s intentional or not I cannot say, but it certainly is consistent. Leaving the filtering aside, picture quality issues are fine. Colors are vibrant, blacks are solid and rich, and the image looks deep, saturated, and dynamic. It’s really a shame that given what is probably a very fine looking high-resolution digital master, that the mastering program couldn’t have taken more care to preserver more image detail and minimize the signature of electronic “boosting”. Picture Quality: 3.5 / 5 Rating Rationale... In the past I think I've been too ambiguous with my scoring or at least haven't applied it consistently from title to title, so I've endeavored to define my rating system more clearly to help make the scoring more meaningful (for all titles reviewed December 2004 and later): Rating Key: SCORE Description 1-2 An absolute abomination. Hurts to watch. Think "Outland" (scan-line aliasing, chroma noise, dotcrawl)-- truly horrid. 2-3 Has some serious problems, but one can at least watch it without getting a headache despite all the problems though you might try to talk your guests into picking a different movie to watch if you have a large projection screen. Think Cold Mountain. 3-4 Good or at least "acceptable" on a big-screen, but not winning any awards and definitely room for improvement if you view the image wide-angle (though smaller-screen viewers may be quite content). Think the first extended cut of Fellowship of the Ring...decent picture but still some HF filtering and some edge-halos. 4-5 A reference picture that really makes the most of the DVD medium and shows extraordinary transparency to the film-source elements. Non-videophile observers can't help but remark "WOW". Think The Empire Strikes Back or the Fifth Element Superbit (full “5” would be sans EE) or the new Toy Story 10th Anniversary Edition. Viewing Equipment: Currently running DVDs on my OPPO DVD player (Faroudja deinterlacing) which scales to 720P, feeding my BenQ 8700+ PJ via DVI, projecting onto a 106” 16x9 Dalite HiPower screen, viewed from approximately 1.6 screen-widths distance. Well mastered DVDs produce a stunningly film-like image in this scenario, and lesser-mastered material quickly shows its flaws. Sound... Quite unlike the video, the audio presentation of Herbie Fully Loaded is very impressive. From the very opening scenes, I was amazed at the use of the 5.1 matrix to create such an immersive and enveloping soundfield. As expected, many of the “action” scenes make appropriate use of the rear channels to carry the action around the room. However, equally (or more) impressive is the effective use of the 5.1 mixing to envelop the listener during less-active scenes where the soundfield is seamlessly blended around the room to create a realistic sense of space to reflect the on-screen context. Well done. Whoever mixed the audio for this film had a wonderful ear for how to make the most of the 5.1 palette even in scenes where other mixers are content to just stick with a front-heavy mix. The only criticism I have is that I heard some distortion on some of the dialogue (during dynamic peaks) which seemed odd given the better-than-average quality of the rest of the audio presentation. Sound Quality: 4.5 / 5 Special Features... All bonus features are 4x3 encoded…I’d love for Disney to start to offer 16x9 bonus features along side their 16x9 feature films! [*]Deleted Scenes:A nice handful of deleted scenes also includes an alternate animated opening-credits sequence which was nice to ponder. There is a “Play all” feature so you can just watch them through without keeping the remote in your hand and you’ve got optional commentary. Nicely done. [*]CommentaryDirector Angela Robinson may not be the most invigorating commentator, but fans will find plenty of trivia tid-bits to make the listen worth the while. Do what I do…put the movie on in the background with the commentary while you’re doing house-chores. Angela takes the time to go into detail about many of the decisions behind the finished product, and I you love Herbie or enjoy this feature film you’ll want to check it out. [*]Behind the Scenes:Several documentary shorts, all rather interesting: • Bringing Herbie to Life Featurette • A Day at the Races Featurette • Breaking the Rules Featurette • The Stunts of Herbie Featurette Even not finding myself overly fond of the feature film, I still found the information in these special features quite interesting. NASCAR enthusiasts will also find special pleasure in taking the time to check these out. [*]Blooper Reel: The Usual. [*]Music Video:Lindsay Lohan performs a music video “First”. While I often dislike these music videos on the basis of principle, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand, the song is catchy. On the other hand, I’m not sure what the connection between Lindsay’s teen-girl-sex-idol style dance number has to do with Herbie (interjecting scenes of the number 53 beetle just didn’t convince me). And on a more personal note: What makes Lindsay such a cool young actress isn’t just her attractive good looks and personality, it’s the fact that she’s different than all the other cookie-cutter teen-singer girls. In this video, she’s dropped weight and bleached her hair blond. What is she thingking? Not to mention that I’m not keen on a sultry music video with lyrics and gestures strongly implying a sexual theme on a family-friendly Herbie DVD. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m not coming at this from some ultra-conservative point of view (trust me ), it’s just that even given my personal liberal views, I still found it a bit jarring to see a music video like this on a DVD that’s marketed mostly to pre-teen kids. Just my opinion. [/list] All Together... While the movie didn’t appeal to me personally, it’s a harmless 102 minutes of family-friendly entertainment that is sure to please the pre-teen crowd--and a few adults as well. For me, the biggest detractor was the lackluster video which clearly (ironic word choice) showed signs of unnecessary HF filtering and lack of detail when viewed on the big screen. Small-screen viewers might not miss the low-level detail as keenly, and the 5.1 audio presentation was surprisingly well delivered. Bonus features are more than adequate given this single-disc presentation, and I think that fans of the film will find something to enjoy.