Directed by Tim Story. Starring Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Gisele Bündchen, Jennifer Esposito, Ann-Margret, Henry Simmons. (2004, PG-13, 97 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., Oct. 15, 2004
Very nearly as entertaining as watching a potato bake, this clueless remake of the 1998 Gerard Pires-directed/Luc Besson-produced French action comedy has precious little of either man’s talent (although Besson, to his presumed woe, is saddled with an "original screenplay" credit). It proves, yet again, that comics (such as indie hipster Jimmy Fallon) who may be hilarious behind Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update desk, tend to fare poorly when transposed to the big screen. Fallon plays NYC cop Washburn who finds himself minus a squad car after a series of automotive mishaps. He’s a terrifically lousy driver to begin with, so when he witnesses a gang of leggy supermodels robbing a bank in broad daylight (you can laugh at the pretext, but considering the recent passing of Fashion Week and the Sunday Times’ new behemoth style supplement, there may be more to this than we know), Washburn commandeers a hack piloted by novice cabbie Belle (Latifah), and very nearly nails his quarry. Turns out Belle’s true love is NASCAR and her cab is a supercharged, quasi-Transformer of a ride, complete with nitrous tanks, blowers, and some fishy fender skirts that appear with the touch of a button. It’s less The Fast and the Furious than it is a silly Gerry Anderson also-ran: Thunderbirds aren’t go. Director Story helmed the Ice Cube vehicle Barbershop, an infinitely more engaging picture, and is currently lensing the big-screen adaptation of Marvel Comics’ The Fantastic Four, which bodes very ill indeed for fans of the classic comic. Taxi’s only saving grace is its automotive mayhem, of which there is far too little. Any time taken up by the inane bantering of mismatched buddies Latifah and Fallon (who display a bizarre nonchemistry that borders on the toxic) is time wasted, and even easy-on-the-eyes Bündchen is given little to do other than strut around and make BMW 700s look even better than they do on the showroom floor. Besson’s original Taxi featured some of the most exhilarating and downright outrageous car chases since The French Connection, although it too suffered from juvenile humor (let’s not even bring up that film’s sequel, the boisterously stupid and cannily titled Taxi 2). This Americanized remake is even less funny, although you can often feel it straining toward outright wackiness. Ann Margret as Washburn’s alcoholic mother? It is to, well, not laugh, exactly. Weep, maybe. Fast cars, beautiful women, and the one comic on SNL that everybody loves – a seemingly unbeatable formula that ends up as dull and dented as a Ford Pinto minus the exploding gas tank.