The nicest thing I can say about Crash is that it plays like a Paul Thomas Anderson movie gone horribly wrong. (I realized this after the montage of disconnected Angelenos gazing forlornly out their windows to the accompaniment of some sweetly-sung dirge, but before the miraculous precipitation that ends the film.) But that's too kind; Crash may be yet another movie intertwining the lives of a handful of socially and racially disparate citizens to offer a searching social commentary on How We Live, but it has none of Anderson's subtlety, humor, or joy.
This is a movie whose idea of dramatic tension is a father giving his little girl an imaginary invisible cloak that supposedly protects her from harm. Its idea of symbolism is a detective pulling a Saint Christopher statue out of the dirt. Its idea of epiphany is a black car thief deciding not to enter the slave trade. And its idea of theme is making nearly every character an outspoken racist. Of course, it's pretty easy to be a racist when all the other characters are walking stereotypes, from the fat indignant black female bureaucrat to the Asian woman who can't drive to the furious entitled yuppie housewife to the trigger-happy white cop.
The movie is basically a sincere version of the racial confrontation game Michael Scott inflicts on his staff in the American version of The Office: hit everybody with their own worst stereotypes and lean back with arms smugly folded, confident that you've just opened a dialogue that will heal America's racial divide. But Steve Carell knows Michael Scott is a self-important ass, whereas Paul Haggis and the thirteen other producers of Crash all proudly slap the "Martin Luther King" card right on their own foreheads as they wallow in our hatred.