Taxi (2004) / Action-Comedy
MPAA Rated: PG-13 for language, violence and sensuality
Running Time: 97 min.
Cast: Jimmy Fallon, Queen Latifah, Giselle Bundchen, Jennifer Esposito, Henry Simmons, Ann-Margret, Christian Kane, Jeff Gordon
Director: Tim Story
Screenplay: Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, Jim Kouf
Taxi is a Hollywood remake of the slickly produced French film of the same name by Luc Besson. What was implausible in the older film becomes absurd to the point of insult in this way-over-the-top action comedy that fills up screen time with noise and slapstick whenever it has no idea where to go. It doesn't know where to go often.
There's only one thing going for the film. The scenes of street racing are extremely well-handled. I suppose you could make a case that the female bank robbers make for some good eye candy as well, but it's nothing you couldn't see on the internet for free anytime you like.
What should have been left on the cutting room floor is any scene that takes place outside of a vehicle, and perhaps any scene in a vehicle where Jimmy Fallon has a chance to speak. Fallon has had his moments as a bit player on Saturday Night Live, but he is absolutely detestable in this film, perhaps the most infuriatingly annoying action-comedy comedian since Martin Lawrence.
Here is the boneheaded premise: Fallon plays Washburn, a New York City detective that just so happens to be one of the worst drivers in the city. He's frequently getting into trouble with his hot-headed boss (Esposito, Master of Disguise), who relieves him of his duties behind the wheel while on the job. Meanwhile, Washburn's case is to crack down on a series of bank robberies, masterminded by a crew of four Brazilian beauties, headed by a stunner with a knack for street racing named Vanessa (Bundchen). Without a car, Fallon commandeers the nearest taxi to chase after the robbers, and just his luck, it is the most souped-up street racer in town, driven by the best of the best, Belle (Latifah, Bringing Down the House). Through a series of unlikely circumstances, Belle and Washburn must stick together to bring the criminals to justice, without killing innocent pedestrians in the process.
Perhaps just as awful as Fallon's performance, the screenplay by Garant, Lennon and Kouf is sloppy, not nearly smart enough to engage and too lazy to inspire. Basically, we're in buddy movie territory, where the plot takes a backseat to the interaction between the two lead personalities. Fallon is not only too unknown to pair up with Queen Latifah, he is outmatched, outwitted, and out-acted by her, and probably everyone else in this lackluster ensemble.
As an action vehicle, Taxi has its moments when on the road, but without a good story or likeable characters, they provide little interest other than to admire the way they are put together. Director Tim Story (Barbershop) slaps this mish-mash together as best he can, but this idea was DOA from the get-go. Mindless action, ridiculous physics, a fantasy premise, and excruciating comedy is all Taxi provides for the duration. Watch the preposterous Besson original if you must see a crazy taxi flick, but this Hollywood updating will leave you only feeling carsick. This is one Taxi no one need hail.
©2004 Vince Leo