Schumacher packed his script with types, some of which are an awkward fit to the material. It’s a tribute to Schultz’s directorial skills that he was able to take what could have been little more than a potentially offensive sitcom and bring to life a small, specific world instead.
...It must be admitted that, as isolated units, the script and music of Car Wash are in the main unexceptional. Yet thanks to the overall brilliance of the direction and performances, these factors operate more as challenges successfully met than as obtrusive obstacles. The exhilarating synchronizing of car-washing, dancing, editing and mise en scène to the title tune; the inspired delivery of insults and comebacks...
The tiny kindnesses and cruelties accumulate through the myriad goofs and visual gags until its ending becomes unexpectedly affecting. Schultz’s camera whip pans from a bickering couple in an azure roadster to George Carlin... yelling from beneath a newsie’s cap. The movie’s like an older, looser cousin to Sean Baker’s TANGERINE. Its first genesis was as a possible musical, and this shows in the thematic counterpoint provided by the film’s soundtrack—a radio DJ and a cascade of disco hits.