Car Wash [1976]

Richard Pryor's face is plastered all over the cover of Car Wash, but don't be fooled. This slight comedy, made in 1976, is an ensemble piece much like Robert Altman's or Alan Rudolph's all-star movies in that there are a lot of familiar faces who have relatively little screen time or business to attend to. Set in smoggy Los Angeles, the film opens with a radio announcer's voiceover, "Hey, hey, L.A. It's a brand new day." And the camera pans the street, zooming in on the Dee-Luxe Car Wash, which is owned by the ultimate cheapskate, Mr. B (Sully Boyar). In rapid succession, we're introduced to a dizzying array of characters who all work or hang out at the car wash: drag queen Lindy (Antonio Fargas), brothers Floyd and Lloyd who want to be in show business, a hip brother, an angry brother, a taxi driver (George Carlin), cashier Marsha (Melanie Mayron), and a plethora of "types" who wash, dry, and polish everything in sight while making time to make time. Car Wash doesn't do much or have a lot to say, the laughs aren't particularly original, and the actors don't have much to do save for Fargas, whose role as a drag queen was groundbreaking because the character wasn't discriminated against or killed at the end. Even Richard Pryor is wasted in his single scene as a wealthy preacher named Daddy Rich. Car Wash, which was written by mainstream director Joel Schumacher (Batman and Robin, Falling Down, The Client), is ultimately uneventful. Its revival on DVD is puzzling because it looks about as faded, dated, and undistinguished as a rusty old car. --Paula Nechak

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