Review by Camden Ferrell
King Car had its premiere in early 2021 and has played multiple festivals since then, including the Fantasia International Film Festival in August 2021. This is the newest feature film of writer/director Renata Pinheiro. The premise is absurd but strangely promising, but the movie fails to capitalize on that potential and delivers a final product that is underwhelming and repetitive.
In Brazil, a man own’s a taxi company. However, his son, Uno, has the odd ability to speak to cars. He soon makes friends with a car that saves him. When he’s a little older, he hears of a law that will ban older vehicles on the road. From here, he joins his uncle he helps create newer and more futuristic vehicles that are sentient and talk. Soon, conflict arises within his community. This is a unique premise to say the least, and it’s something that could have been fun and genre-bending if it was executed properly.
From the start, it’s clear that the movie takes itself more seriously than it should. For example, a movie like Quentin Dupieux’s Mandibles understands its own absurdity and builds off of it successfully. Unfortunately, this movie doesn’t do the same and attempts to craft something overly earnest. This leads the film to feeling like a downer as a result.
The acting throughout is also fairly disappointing. Luciano Pedro Jr., who is occasionally captivating in his lead role, plays Uno, but it’s more inconsistent than anything. Matheus Nachtergaele probably gives the strongest performance throughout as Uno’s uncle. He brings a lot of much needed energy to the movie, but it doesn’t always prove to be a fit for the story or scenes he is in.
While there are flaws in the film’s execution, no one can accuse this movie of being bland. Pinheiro’s movie is bold and quite daring at times, and it makes an honest attempt at taking this fantastical premise and blending it with social and political issues of this Brazilian community. It’s not the most effective, but it is clear that there was legitimate passion put into this project.
King Car has a great premise but ultimately suffers due to some misguided execution and forgettable performances. It shows creativity in Pinheiro as a director even though there’s a lot of room to improve. It’s a movie that might be off-putting to some, but I hope most will at least find something to enjoy in the film’s daring nature and narrative even if some parts of the movie are disappointing.
King Car is in theaters and on VOD January 7.