March 7, 2023

THE BUG: A Movie for Beetlemaniacs

2016 / 80 min
Review by Fluffy the Fearless😺

Like Ewan McGregor, my first car was a Volkswagen Beetle. 

Well, not mine exactly. Growing up, that baby blue ‘69 Bug was my parents’ second car. The other was a sporty new Mustang, which they sure as hell weren’t gonna entrust with their freshly-licensed 16-year-old son, so the Bug it was. While sometimes a little envious of peers whose parents provided them sexier sets of wheels, I grew to love that little car, which sort-of became part of my identity. I was even a little sad when I eventually moved out of the house and had to leave it behind.

Of all the cars I’ve driven throughout my life, that Beetle is the one I miss the most.

The Bug: The Life and Times of the People’s Car is a documentary that perfectly captures the affection me and so many others still have for the Volkswagen Beetle. When actor Ewan McGregor fawns over his own vintage Bug while waxing nostalgic about growing up driving one, he could be describing my own formative years. His enthusiasm is contagious. Even viewers who’ve never had the pleasure of puttering around in a Bug will find the relationship between these homely vehicles and their owners quite charming.

Another lovely garden, destroyed by Bugs.
McGregor is not the only Beetlemaniac featured here. Plenty of others are on-hand to sing the car’s praises, from collectors to those who restore old Bugs to their former glory. One of the film’s more affecting narratives chronicles a man’s year-long effort to rebuild a car he purchased from the widow of a man who never got to finish the job. 

Concurrently, the film delves into the Beetle’s history, beginning by dispelling the general notion that it was developed by Nazis. We get the whole story…the car’s explosion in sales & popularity during the 1960s, its impact on pop culture (particularly in America), Volkwagen’s unorthodox ad campaigns and, somewhat sadly, its decline in the late ‘70s (except in some countries where they were widely used as taxis). 

More recent history is briefly touched upon, like when the car was reintroduced with a new design, but for the most part, The Bug is an affectionate, surprisingly bittersweet love letter to the distant past. We don’t see too many old school Beetles on the roads anymore, as many of the film’s participants concur. And as it ended - with a lone Bug driving off into the distance - I found myself missing my first car more than ever. 


FEATURETTES - “Ewan McGregor on Keeping Your VW Alive”; “Ewan McGregor on Saving an Old Bug”; “Ewan McGregor’s First Car”; “Mike Yager on Volkswagen Camaraderie.” (These are essentially deleted or extended scenes).

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