D.C. Cab (1983) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG for some crude humor
Running Time: 91 min.
Cast: Max Gail, Adam Baldwin, Charlie Barnett, Mr. T, Gary Busey, Marsha Warfield, Paul Rodriguez, Bill Maher, Gloria Gifford, DeWayne Jessie
Director: Chris Wedge, Carlos Saldanha
Screenplay: Lowell Ganz, Babaloo Mandel
DC Cab is a movie that, from all outward appearances, looks like it could be a fun, lowbrow comedy that, with the diverse group of character actors, should deliver some classic moments of hilarity. You have Mr. T (Rocky III, "The A-Team") , Gary Busey (The Gumball Rally, Predator 2), Bill Maher ("Politically Incorrect", "Real Time with Bill Maher"), Paul Rodriguez (Blood Work, Ali), and Marsha Warfield ("Night Court"), to name but a few. It is also written and directed by Joel Schumacher, who would go on to create some interesting movies like Phone Booth and Falling Down. Sadly, with such a wealth of interesting talent, if one can call this ensemble talented, DC Cab is a major disappointment, even from a knowingly bad movie standard. You can't laugh with it, since it isn't funny. You can't laugh at it, since it is intangibly constructed as to be quite boring and uneventful. This is the case where the thought of such a movie existing provides the real laughs. Watching it only ruins the thrill of what cinematic dangers lie within.
I'm hard-pressed to come up with a plot summary, because I'm not entirely sure this film has one. The best I can come up with is that it centers on a ragtag group of cab drivers in Washington DC. They appear to be the worst cab company in town, with beat-up vehicles, reckless drivers, and virtually no scruples in what they are willing to do to back an easy buck. The owner of the company, Harold (Max Gail, "Barney Miller") , has a dream to make something of the place, which he just might do if he can get some money to invest in fixing up the image. Unfortunately, the only person in the company who seems interested in even working there is the new guy, Albert (Adam Baldwin, My Bodyguard), while the rest of the gang are just in it to make enough money to get out.
Despite casting a mix of strong personalities and some up-and-coming standup comics, the makers of DC Cab make several mistakes that keep the film from gaining any momentum whatsoever. The first mistake comes from not giving these actors, most of whom aren't very experienced, anything funny to play off of. Perhaps none of the actors were given free reign to take hold of their characters and ad-lib something funny. From the finished film, it looks like they probably stood around waiting for Schumacher to give them something funny to do, and if that's the case, he was obviously clueless.
Another mistake was in not giving the two actors with most comedic possibilities, Mr. T and Gary Busey, the biggest roles in the movie. Instead, the film centers around Max Gail and Adam Baldwin, two decent actors who are just not funny enough to carry the load on their own, especially with such underwritten parts. The rest of their actors are strictly to give a distinctive flavor to the ensemble, but almost none of them exhibits enough on-screen charisma to make any lasting impression.
Being a movie around a cab company, you'd at least expect there to be a plethora of celebrities, comedians, or interesting actors as passengers, to keep the comedic possibilities fresh. There is only one person of note to play a passenger, and that's flash-in-the-pan singer, Irene Cara (Fame, City Heat). She has nothing funny to say, do, and she doesn't even sing, although she does contribute a forgettable song on the soundtrack. Her appearance is built up, but asking for a pay-off from a buildup this flaccid seems futile.
Even though no one should be expecting a masterpiece, it's hard not to be disappointed that more laughs couldn't be generated. DC Cab is a very uninspired and lazy movie strictly of appeal to people who want a slice of 1980s nostalgia, without the high overhead of having to actually think while watching a movie. Next time you're at the video store, look at the DVD case and chuckle at just how cheesy it looks. Put the box back where you found it -- nothing that happens during the movie remotely comes close to recreating that initial laugh.
©2005 Vince Leo