Director(s): Tim Story
Writer(s): Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Jim Kouf
Cast: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Henry Simmons, Jennifer Esposito, Gisele Bundchen and Ann-Margret
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Oct 8, 2004 - Wide
In 1998, Luc Besson helmed a French film called Taxi that poked some fun at American buddy films and their car chases in a French setting. It was a huge success in Europe but never made it across the pond. The American remake, directed by Tim Story, is less a French gift like the Statue of Liberty and more like a Trojan Horse designed to ruin the careers of Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon.
Latifah is a bike messenger named Belle who does her job in record time by riding her bike in physically impossible ways that see her zipping through Macy’s, careening down the steps of subway stations and leaping off bridges to land on the roofs of trucks. In the real world, riding like this would lead to the loss of her job, if not her life. It’s her last day. She’s earned her taxi license and leaves with a parting gift of a turbocharger for her souped up taxi. And by souped up, I mean a NASCAR-worthy vehicle which would only be possible to build if she was the most outrageously tipped bike messenger in the history of the planet.
Jimmy Fallon, meanwhile, plays a cop named Washburn, though he should be named “Washout”. Washburn has so little skill as a police officer that he makes Inspector Clouseau look like Sherlock Holmes. He messes up undercover operations terribly and, because of a driving lesson trauma, is such a bad driver that he eventually has his license taken away by his boss (and ex-girlfriend) Lt. Robbins (Jennifer Esposito). She should have saved taxpayers’ money, and possibly lives, by taking away his badge and gun at the same time.
Catching wind of a bank robbery, Washburn ends up commandeering Belle’s vehicle and setting off in pursuit of the robbers (a team of supermodels headed by Giselle Bundchen) at speeds impossible in New York without a helicopter. The rest of the plot, and that’s just a placeholder word in this case, revolves around Washburn and Belle trying to crack the case together.
I’d like to remind everyone that Queen Latifah earned an Oscar nomination for her work in Chicago. She’s a talented actress but she needs to stop signing contracts to appear in films like this. Maybe we, as an audience, can stage an intervention or something. Fallon’s character is just so incompetent and one-dimensional that he just never earns any of our sympathy. If someone could also explain to me the reason why the legendary Ann-Margret agreed to play Fallon’s alcoholic mother, I’d appreciate it. The only thing this film has going for it is the leggy villains played by Bundchen, Ana Cristina de Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch and Magali Amadei. The film would be exponentially improved if they just took the scene where the foursome strip off their disguises and looped it for a couple of hours.
Car chases can be fine in moderation but if there’s no reason behind them and if there’s no tension of plausibility (try going 150 mph in Manhattan) they just become tedious cartoons. And that’s what Taxi is, a tedious cartoon with no redeeming qualities. I’m not suggesting you don’t go see this, I’m suggesting you avoid the entire complex where it’s playing in case it’s sheer awfulness is contagious.