CarGo (2017) poster

CarGo (2017)


USA. 2017.


Director – James Cullen Bressack, Screenplay – Gordon Bressack & James Cullen Bressack, Producer – David Michael Latt, Music – Christopher Cano & Chris Ridenhour, Animation Director – Paul Runyan. Production Company – The Asylum/Toolvox Productions.


Haley Joel Osment (Danny Carbunkle), Melissa Joan Hart (Cabigail), Jason Mewes (Vinnie Diesel), Edward Asner (Ed Carbunkle), Porsha Williams (Carlotta), Phil LaMarr (Fred Cop Car/Speedy Fireball), Ellen Gertsel (Mrs Edsel/Clunker#1), Jessica DiCicco (Rudy Carleone), Stephen Kramer Glickman (Kyle/Spirit of the Forest), James Cullen Bressack (Don Carleone/Smokey Car), Maurice LaMarche (Chief/Ferryman/Tough Old Car), Dylan Vox (Monster Truck)


In the town of CarGo that is inhabited by cars, Danny Carbunkle who is a teenager who is getting in trouble at school for being out street racing with his best friend Vinnie Diesel instead of studying. Vinnie persuades Danny to bunk school and enter a race up against Rudy Carleone, the son of the local car Mafia head. However, Danny’s father Ed has followed and Rudy collides with him. Danny’s father is totalled and Danny learns that is to be despatched to Clunker Island. Danny refuses to let this happen and sets out with his friend Cabigail to rescue his father.

The Asylum is a low-budget US production company that has had a very prolific output of films since the mid-2000s, consisting of Mockbusters, films with titles intended to resemble big-budget hits that have just come out, Gonzo Killer Shark movies – most notedly with the whole phenomenon of Sharknado (2013), along with assorted monster and disaster movies.

CarGo was the third animated film made by The Asylum. They had previously made Izzy’s Way Home (2015) and Trolland (2016) and subsequently went on to make Homeward (2020) and their own version of The Little Mermaid (2023). All of these are mockbusters that tailgate on the release of high-profile animated studio releases. CarGo was released on June 6, 2017, ten days before Pixar’s Cars 3 (2017) came out.

The surprise is that CarGo is quite well made. Usually with an Asylum film you have very lowered expectations of what you are watching but this holds up. It has a decent cast with names like Haley Joel Osment, Melissa Joan Hart, Kevin Smith regular Jason Mewes and Ed Asner – and gets most of them singing too. Moreover, it has a cleverness that holds its own against the Cars universe – it could easily act as a Lightning McQueen: The Early Years. Here it does a witty and imaginative business of expanding on ideas that run throughout the Cars universe and coming up with some amusing twists of its own.

Cabigail (Melissa Joan Hart) and Danny Carbunkle (Haley Joel Osment) in CarGo
(l to r) Cabigail (Melissa Joan Hart) and Danny Carbunkle (Haley Joel Osment)

The script has a lot of clever and original ideas that you just know could easily have made another Cars movie – a car prison (where all the imprisoned cars are painted orange and with numbers on their body); a visit to a demolition derby; a Car Mafia – the Carsanostra; even Clunker Island, the place where totalled and wrecked vehicles are sent, which is guarded by the vehicular equivalent of Charon the boatman. The plot lifts something of The Fast and the Furious (2001) and has Danny dragged into appearing in illegal street races – he even has a best friend with the name Vinnie Diesel. In one of the more mind-boggling scenes, we get a vehicular equivalent of Shakespeare with a performance of Chromio and Tooliette put on featuring cars. The Asylum are not above creating in-jokes aimed at their own Sharknado hit with the poster for a film called Carnado – “I hate that movie. It was far too unrealistic,” Ed Asner states.

The major, major drawback of the film is that it comes with cut-price animation down around the level of a 1990s/early 2000s Pixar wannabe. The backgrounds look completely flat and artificial – it is surely the digital equivalent of someone holding up big pieces of cardboard in lieu of sets. On the plus side, the cars themselves are quite well animated and expressive.

Director James Cullen Bressack made several indie horror films with the likes of My Pure Joy (2011), Underground Lizard People (2011), Hate Crime (2012) and To Jennifer (2013) before joining The Asylum for 13/13/13 (2013), Blood Lake: Attack of the Killer Lampreys (2014) and CarGo. He later went on to make the horror films Pernicious (2014), Bethany (2017), Deadly Reunion (2017), Blood Craft (2019) and Alone (2020). and has produced and written a number of others.

Trailer here

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