a critiQal film review Taxi (2004)

Plot: When New York Det. Washburn (Fallon) loses his license, he has to grab a taxi to chase a couple of bank robbers. Lucky for him, it's not just any taxi - it's Belle's (Latifah) souped-up ride.

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  • ...despite not being related whatsoever to a 70's sitcom, this manages to be entertaining and, at brief moments, downright funny

I know what you’re thinking. The same thing I was when I first heard of the new film, Taxi: another remake of a hit TV show (just like Charlie’s Angels (2000), The Dukes of Hazzard or Starsky & Hutch (2004)), this one starring Danny DeVito and wacky goofball Andy Kaufman.

But wait – Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon star? Huh? Put your mind at ease, Hollywood hasn’t totally lost their minds – Taxi isn’t actually based on the hit TV show, it’s based on a European film written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element (1997), The Professional (1994)). Whew!

With that out of the way, I was somewhat interested in checking out the film. Aside from being written by Luc Besson, I found out Taxi stars Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon (“Saturday Night Live” (TV)), has a souped-up taxicab, and some hot bank robbers, led by top model Gisele in her first acting role. Queen Latifah is usually able to crack me up in her movie roles, so I knew she would be fun to watch. And Gisele would at least be fun to look at.

But what about Jimmy Fallon? I’ve only seen little snippets of him doing the news on “Saturday Night Live” (TV) while flipping through channels (by the way – anyone else miss the good ol’ days when you actually watched “Saturday Night Live” (TV) – and it was funny?), but knowing some of the other “Saturday Night Live” (TV)> actors to recently branch into films (like the horribly unfunny Will Ferrell), I wasn’t going to get my hopes up too high. Hopefully, Queen Latifah, the fast cars and hot Gisele (whose last name is apparently Bündchen – not that any guy really cares) would be able to make up for the slack Jimmy Fallon was bound to generate – right?

Jimmy Fallon did an okay job as a loser cop whose trying to do the right thing in Taxi. Sure, some of his jokes fall flat (okay, a lot of them), and sure, he’s not really that good of an actor – but he does play a loser rather well – and hey, at least some of his jokes were actually funny! Hopefully, the more feature films he does, the better he’ll get, unlike fellow alum Will Ferrell, who apparently will always suck.

Queen Latifah, luckily, was able to bring up his slack in Taxi and throw in a few funny comments of her own to gloss over when Fallon’s jokes fell flat. She continues to bring humor to any situation she finds herself in, and it will be interesting to see how she does when her own movie comes to DVD (Beauty Shop (2005)).

Gisele also did a decent job in her role, since it required very little in the way of dialogue or emotions. She was able to look good, flirt, and grin, which was basically all that was required of her. Smart casting decision for her part – she doesn’t have to act much, so can’t mess Taxi up, so why not bring in some eye candy? Works out well.

The plot is well put together, with no real big stretches of imagination from start to finish. If the viewer can get their head around the idea of high speed chases on New York’s congested streets, they will easily be pulled into Taxi. Every scene (in the theatrical version of the film) is well thought out, and all keep the movie aiming along the storyline, with no real drops into chaos anywhere along the way. Nice job by writer Luc Besson, yet again.

The special effects mainly involve, of course, the driving sequences, where the movie does an excellent job of keeping the viewer a part of the action. These sequences are fast and furious (no pun intended), and really help give a much needed dose of action to Taxi. They don’t seem to be the typical car chases, since they throw in a couple of obstacles that most chase sequences don’t consider.

Some of the action is a bit cliched, but it helps bring a sense of familiarity to the sequence before throwing something new at the viewer. Another trick to help pull the viewer into the film, and it works.

Despite not being related whatsoever to a 70’s sitcom, Taxi manages to be entertaining and, at brief moments, downright funny. When trying to decide which version of the film to watch when you rent the DVD, my suggestion is to stick with the Theatrical Version (the added scenes in the Extended Version were discarded for a reason – they drag down the pace of the film and don’t contribute anything in return).

This Taxi is worth the rental fare – if you can find it at your local Blockbuster® (it took us weeks to finally be able to snag a copy – anyone else think that no more late fees was a bad idea? C’mon people – return those movies so others can watch them – what purpose do you have for keeping those films for over a month?).

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