August 24, 2005
Starring: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Henry Simmons, Jennifer Esposito, Gisele Bundchen, Ana Cristina De Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch, Magali Amadei, Ann-Margret, Christian Kane, Boris McGiver, Adrian Martinez, Joe Lisi, Bryna Weiss, GQ, ,
Inept cop Jimmy Fallon must team up with girl-racer Queen Latifah to catch a gang of wily bank robbers who also happen to be supermodels.
A remake of French hit Taxi from 1998, Luc Besson again returns to produce this lightweight tale of cops n’ robbers driving really really fast. The odd thing is, this is actually highly entertaining despite being the first lead role for the annoying-yet-cuddly Jimmy Fallon, whose previous claim to fame was starring on Saturday Night Live (some show they have in America apparently) and hosting various MTV award ceremonies. To be fair, Fallon nearly stole the show in Almost Famous, but that was barely a cameo and here we have to endure him for ninety-seven minutes. Nay, the real star here is Fallon’s partner in crime, Queen Latifah. Rapping, dancing, acting; is there nothing this woman can’t do?
The one major switch from the original movie is that the taxi driver of the title is now a woman, but far from being merely a Hollywood gimmick, this gives the standard buddy-comedy genre a nice little twist without demeaning Latifah’s character by having her moan about her nails during a car chase (the script was changed very little when she signed on). Her Belle is easily more man than Washburn, as Fallon tries to amuse with obvious improvisations that earn him an A for effort and a D for comedic wit (to add insult to injury his one gut-buster was cut out of the movie: “So there was a little spooning,” he says to Latifah after a sleepover, “At least we didn’t fork”).
So Fallon is the weakest link, goodbye, but you can’t deny he and Latifah have a great screen chemistry that builds from mutual annoyance to fuzzy admiration (he can’t drive so he needs her; she can’t get her taxi back from the cops without him). Conveniently the bad guys have a taste for suped-up Beamers and only Belle can catch them, but it turns out these bad boys are actually bad girls with an encyclopedic knowledge of Gucci. Yep, they’re supermodels and for some reason despite being rich and gorgeous (they can certainly afford three top-of-the-line BMW’s), they also want to rob banks in their spare time. It’s this sort of bonkers excess that decides whether you fall for Taxi’s charm or dismiss it and demand your money back. Playing an egomaniacal supermodel is hardly a stretch for Gisele but she does okay in her first acting role and delivers the best “You eediot” since Ren and Stimpy.
Barbershop director Tim Story is no stranger to comedy and flashy music videos, both of which come in handy during the simple comedy set-pieces and the tyre-squealing car action respectively. He was the first to try out a new camera crane that allows the viewer to get closer to moving vehicles and he thrashes it to within an inch of its life (literally in one shot, where Belle’s cab does a 180 and almost clips the lens). If you don’t laugh at the jokes, you’ll at least enjoy some great chases through the streets of New York.
Let’s hope Mr. Story lives up to his name a little better on the upcoming Fantastic Four movie though, because narrative is Taxi’s Achilles’ heel. The ending is a huge anti-climax (one of the least convincing car jumps in cinema history) and there are no real plot twists to speak of. Still, this is mindless fun with fast cars, a cool soundtrack and a short running time. For once a sequel to a buddy comedy would not be unwelcome.
You get a choice of watching the theatrical version or a new ‘extended’ version. Tim Story mentions on his commentary that he hates long films and they should all be ninety minutes long, so you know he had nothing to do with the extended version which basically reinstalls a few character beats (Fallon harassing kids at the zoo, Latifah doing up her new car) but ultimately adds very little to the film, turning a short fun experience into a slightly longer average one.
Anything not thrown in the extended version can be found in the Extended/Deleted Scenes section which includes the aforementioned spooning scene and a little more of the models scheming. The ‘Beautiful Criminals’ feature is nothing more than clips of Gisele and her girl pals set to music – a patronising idea leveled at the horny teenager market.
‘The Meter’s Runnin’: The Making of Taxi’ is your standard behind the scenes featurette hosted by Fallon (somebody tell him to stick to a script and maybe he’ll be funny), ‘Lights, Camera, Bluescreen’ explains the use of a studio rig to create shots not possible in the field and is hosted by…Jimmy Fallon. Next up is a tour of the set with…Jimmy Fallon?! Gah!
As well as Tim Story’s commentary on the theatrical cut of the movie (recorded during shooting of Fantastic Four), there are also some random trailers for other movies and an amusing Reel Comedy show with ‘cops’ in a taxi interviewing Fallon and Latifah about the movie (“I think I just ran over a young boy,” one cop deadpans. “It’s okay, he’s gettin’ up.”) Overall this is good, if vacuous entertainment, and the obvious fun had on set is highly infectious during the behind the scenes stuff and in the actual movie. Perfect Saturday night fodder.