Directed by Tim Story
How’s this for high-concept: a buddy movie pairing a bumbling white cop with a street-wise black woman who aspires to be a NASCAR driver? The silly plot involves chasing a gang of supermodel bank robbers around NYC in a tricked out taxi. Make no mistake -- Taxi is a dumb comedy full of repetitive humor that leans on racial stereotypes and lots and lots of car chasing. That said, it’s a fairly well-executed dumb comedy full of repetitive humor and chase sequences. Jimmy Fallon isn’t believable as a cop (the lead role – Washburn) but, in the spirit of this silly movie his performance works pretty well – the running joke is that he can’t drive but he’s constantly getting behind the wheel and crunching up cars. Queen Latifah plays Belle, the female lead, a bike-messenger-turned-cab-driver with lots of attitude. Her performance leans heavily on stereotypes of black women but I must say she made me laugh more than anything else in this dumbed-down comedy. Since she aspires to NASCAR, she can’t drive any old cab – she has this super-charged, wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing taxi -- which facilitates all of the chasing of the supermodels. Incidentally, I think the production design team for Taxi blew a chance to score with the young male audience that made the Fast and Furious movies box office bonanzas. Belle’s hot taxi looked phony – something that crowd will no doubt notice. I think they should have played it straight with the hot car – made it look like a realistic street rod instead of a comic prop.
The silliest aspect of Taxi is the supermodel angle. When they put out the DVD an interesting extra would be video of the pre-production meeting where some studio execs are sitting around discussing what elements they’re going to stuff into the “unnamed Queen Latifah/Jimmy Fallon buddy project”. They’ve already determined that he is going to play the stereotypical impotent (can’t drive) white guy in contrast to her only-slightly-out-of-the-envelope NASCAR-aspiring-street-wise black woman. When they realize that they need more – who are the villains? -- somebody suggests the supermodel bank robber concept – at least it hasn’t been done before (I think.) The scene in the meeting room where that concept is discussed could make the kind of “inside baseball” feature that adds value to a DVD. I’ll bet that there is a lot of humor – intentional and unintentional – in meetings like that. I just wish that I could have been a fly on the wall when the powers that be decided to green-light the concept of supermodel bank robbers. Not that supermodel bank robbers isn’t a funny concept – it is funny and it’s consistent with the tone of this movie. But the mental picture of a room full of Hollywood executives sitting around having a serious business discussion about supermodel bank robbers is funnier to me than the concept itself.
The producers of Taxi didn’t mess around in the casting of said supermodels. Headlining is Brazilian beauty Gisele Bundchen with Ana Cristina De Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch, and Magali Amadei rounding out her nefarious crew. They’re usually shot in slo-mo or striking a pose – just like real bank robbers – ha! -- right – so realistic! It’s all in fun though -- Taxi is a silly movie and the supermodel stuff is consistent with that overall feel.
Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon worked well together as mismatched buddies. The humor felt a little repetitive but I can’t fault the actors – the leads gave spirited performances. Ann-Margret was funny as Washburn’s alcoholic mother but the two significant others for the leads felt tacked on. In the typical, formulaic fashion both leads are having trouble in their relationships and help each other get over those problems after first appearing to cause more trouble with the boyfriend/girlfriend. The filmmakers would have been wise to leave those characters out – hey! -- they could have given us more slo-mo of Gisele! Overall – I can’t recommend this movie – but given the genre it’s not too bad – I’m not sorry that I saw it. Taxi has some redeeming qualities – the two leads, for example. Also, it’s the kind of movie that won’t lose much if transferred to DVD – the production design, etc. is unimpressive -- there aren’t any stunning visuals to be diminished. Director Tim Story did so well with Barbershop -- which ranked #8 on my Best of 2002 List on the strength of a clever script and a great ensemble cast -- Taxi is a big disappointment against that high standard.
Photographs are copyright 20th Century Fox.
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