Taxi (2004)

Reviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 02/17/05 23:01:55

"Buckle up for crap!"
1 stars (Sucks)

There are so many things to say about the failed comedy “Taxi,” but all you really need to know is that it’s about a bumbling Manhattan cop who hires a sassy cabbie with a tricked out hack to drive him around while he tries to crack the case of four Portuguese-speaking supermodels who rob banks. I don’t know if the fact that some producer actually thought this would make a great hit is a surprise or just the inevitable result of decades of bad greenlighting.

I want to call the movie a comedy, because it has punch lines (I think) and silly comic set-ups (I guess) and two stars known for working the funny: Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon. But the movie takes so many strange detours that it also comes off as a clumsy stunt-filled buddy cop action flick, with so many car chases that often you’re forgetting that this is supposed to be a funny movie. (Which is a relief, really, because when the bad jokes land, you’ll be sorry you remembered how funny it’s not.)

The film is a remake of a 1998 French actioner (written and produced by the king of French actioners, Luc Besson), which remains unreleased in North America. The original was a massive hit in Europe, which suggests that either that movie was nothing at all like this dreadful reworking, or that the Europeans love their movies to be as bad as humanly possible. I’m guessing it’s the former, because this may be national pride talking, but only America could make a movie this impossibly dumb.

How dumb? There are times I felt I wasn’t watching an action-comedy, but a parody of one. Consider the bit in which a car smashes through a giant window in a hospital emergency room. Or the chase involving an ridiculously gap-filled under-construction freeway (it’s an homage to “Speed” that goes one gap too far, leaving all logic behind it). Or the plotline that tell us how Queen Latifah has dreams of being a NASCAR driver. In her taxi.

I haven’t even gotten to the bank robbing Portuguese supermodels yet, because I still need a little time to digest this one. It is perhaps the lamest excuse for T&A I’ve seen in a while (and trust me, as a guy, I’m always looking for lame excuses for T&A), although honestly, I wouldn’t have minded had they tried to do something with the idea, not just “hey, we’re supermodels who rob banks, look at our underwear!” I can’t even tell if the supermodel thing was supposed to be played for laughs, because the comedy here is handled so ineptly that the whole movie just becomes varying degrees of Not Funny: the serious, earnest parts are at one end of the spectrum, the failed jokes are on the other. And the whole movie manages to hit every spot in between. (Side note: The explanation for how Latifah’s character is fluent in Portuguese tops every other bit of stupidity the movie has to offer. You’ve been warned.)

Considering how the film stars Jimmy Fallon, who was so much fun on “Saturday Night Live” and who showed such potential with his bit part in “Almost Famous,” it’s more than merely a disappointment that the film goes out of its way to ensure that Fallon remains painfully unfunny. Fallon’s relegated to awkward mugging, imbecilic dialogue, and even, in the scenes that finds his character going undercover, a few obnoxious accents. This is not a role for someone like Fallon. This is a role for your Rob Schneiders, your Ashton Kutchers, your Wayans brothers.

And then there’s Latifah, who took her well-deserved Oscar nomination and opted not to follow up with any more challenging roles that might dare showcase her natural talents. Instead, she once again parades about as the barely interesting sassy sister character. There seems to be an entire cottage industry devoted to coming up with bad comedies in which Latifah can say “damn!” a lot.

Sigh. “Taxi” is a pain to watch, partly because you can see just how much talent is being in front of the camera, and partly because you can see how much talent is absent behind it. The film is a cavalcade of bad ideas (did I mention Ann-Margret as Fallon’s “hilarious” alcoholic mom?), a showcase for everything that’s asinine about Hollywood movies today. By the time Jeff Gordon shows up for his cameo, you’ll have nothing left to do but bang your head on the wall and wonder why anyone, anywhere, could possibly think any of this might work.

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