Directed by Tim Story
Screenplay by Robert Ben Garant & Thomas Lenon and Jim Kouf
Based on the screenplay by Luc Besson
Taxi is the typical action comedy that Hollywood usually grinds out, which is about the nicest thing I can say about it. It’s a boring, insipid, by-the-numbers movie that leaves the viewer numbed and nonplussed, wondering why they didn’t choose to read a book, call a friend or even devote that 90 minutes to working for a charity.
The film opens with an elaborate action sequence of someone on a bicycle riding through New York City. We later discover that someone is Queen Latifah. The fact that the rider and Latifah have different body shapes would have normally been bothersome to me, but I had already been distracted by seeing parts of Los Angeles cut into the film as if they were New York. This might be a minor issue for some, but I live near and work in Los Angeles, so it took me out of the moment, as it did every time it occurred during the action sequences. I understand there was probably a small budget for this film, if not someone better have been fired. Combining locations this way must have saved them money, but the two cities look nothing alike. There is nothing uniquely New York about the story so the location could easily have been moved to a cheaper location.
When filmmakers pay no attention to the details, I’m never sure if they are incompetent or that they think the public is so dumb that no one will notice. The more I watched the film and after listening to the director’s commentary track, which I’ll deal with later, I am inclined to think it is the former. Either way, I gave up on the film in less than five minutes.
The premise of the film is that cab driver/racing car enthusiast Latifah works with dim-witted, police officer Jimmy Fallon in trying to solve the mystery of the bank-robbing, hot models from Brazil. Obviously, they are going to save the day, but the trick is to make the plot and characters so interesting that the viewer lives in the moments of the scenes. There’s no surprise when this isn’t done. There is no characterization, leaving Latifah and Fallon with nothing to do other than spout lines as themselves essentially. If you like them, that’s great because you get nothing more.
Fallon’s character is too stupid to know how to drive a car, but he’s able to see clues that Sherlock Holmes would have overlooked and solves the case. We know Fallon will be driving in the end, and to accomplish this feat he has a Zen moment where he doesn’t think about driving while he does it. Instead, he sings Natalie Cole’s “This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)” in such a high-pitched, barely intelligible screech that I was surprised the dogs in my neighborhood didn’t start howling incessantly.
Another example of how bad the script is when the models are pulled over by a traffic cop. The money is in the trunk and the officer wants to look in it. One model in the backseat pulls her gun out, ready to dispatch this nosey pig. Upon searching the trunk’s contents, all he finds is clothing, mainly panties because what else do hot models travel with. Later, we discover that the women got rid of the money soon after leaving the bank. They were never in any danger of getting caught by the police officer, so there wasn’t any reason for the model to pull the gun. It was a lame, dishonest trick by the screenwriters to create tension and conflict. Maybe the filmmakers are incompetent and they think the public too dumb to notice things.
The film’s stunt work is mediocre. It’s mainly just driving up and down city streets, nothing dramatic. You can tell when the camera speed is changed and when CGI is used. The worst use of CGI is in the end when cars are leaping across pieces of a freeway. It looks completely fake and unrealistic, defeating the purpose of stunt work.
The one good element is the camera crew who took some very good shots with a crane called the Russian Arm that maneuvers through traffic with the cars. It is such a useful and amazing piece of equipment that I’m sure a more talented director will put it too good use.
The only other thing Taxi might have had going for it was the comedy, but that fails also. It was 49 minutes into the film before there was a funny moment. It was immediately after they left Fallon’s mother’s apartment. The film draws attention to the lack of laughs in the scene where Fallon attempts to create a standoff with the bad guys by filling a room in a garage with nitrous oxide. Fallon and Latifah start laughing hysterically from the gas. Their voices change to for some reason. The film would have been better served if they had released nitrous in the theater and provided a full balloon for the DVD. I think Fallon can be funny, but he flails around in this film, coming up empty.
The lack of humor is a problem the DVD extras run into as well. The featurettes are boring for the most part, coming across like home movies and filler. The only good moments come from Comedy Central’s Reel Comedy: Taxi. Two characters from Reno 911! host it and they are hysterical. The segment makes you wish for a film with them rather than the one you just sat through. The fact that the two actors are two of the co-writers of the film is mind-boggling. How can they be funny in this segment while there is almost no humor at all in the film?
I suffered through the commentary track and the director comes off like a buffoon. He is such an ass-kisser that I was turned off in under three minutes. He raves about the talents of Latifah and Fallon, who he compares to Bill Murray, but none of what he sees is on display in this film. My head almost exploded when he made the statement that Barbershop, a film he directed, “was like Glengarry Glen Ross.” I had to play it again because I wasn’t sure I heard him right. To be fair, he was talking about Taxi being his first action film and that Barbershop was essentially like shooting a play, but why couldn’t he say that. Why compare his work to something so superior in every way? Story might get the job done, but he is untalented and has no idea what he’s doing. When he ruins The Fantastic Four, let’s hope the suits wise up and stop giving him work.
Plain and simple, Taxi is a very bad movie. I would rather be hit by a taxi than to be made to watch this again. Don’t watch it and don’t let people you know watch it.