“Taxi”, an often very funny, loose remake of the 1998 French film directed by Gerard Pires and written by Luc Besson, is a great example of dumb fun, which still involves what you’re looking for when you’re watching a comedy, fun.
I admit it helps tremendously if you like the two leads, Queen Latifah and former Saturday Night Live star Jimmy Fallon (I especially liked his quick put-downs in the company’s computer guy skits). They show very good chemistry and have several funny scenes or lines, but I can see why some people will find the movie moronic and point to some irritating plot shortcuts.
Queen is Belle, a feisty, no-nonsense New Yorker who leaves her pizza delivery job to become a speed limit-busting cab driver as the film begins. One of her former colleagues is Mario (Gregory Qaiyum) who you might remember (or probably not) as the hyperactive buddy of Lance Bass in 2001’s overlooked romantic comedy “On the Line”. He’s the one who basically has “Frat Boy” stamped across the forehead. Anyway, Mario will be helpful towards the end of the film. The plot is about stopping bank robbers who are not your ordinary ski mask-wearing robbers: they’re four supermodel-gorgeous thieves (wait, they actually are models) led by Gisele Bundchen. The inept cop on the case is Washburn (Fallon), first seen sporting a fake mustache and speaking with a hilarious Razor Ramon Cuban accent as he screws up a sting operation. His superior Martha (Jennifer Esposito), whom he used to date, gets progressively impatient with him and with his total absence of driving skills, something that’s effectively and extensively played for laughs.
Suspect coincidences make Belle and Washburn’s paths cross, but they eventually stay together as they realize this will be a mutually beneficial partnership. He wants to prove to Martha he’s not just some bumbling pushover and she wants her taxi back when it’s seized as evidence after a wildly unsuccessful attempt to catch the misbehaving ladies. The rare laughs (more like smiles) in Pires’ film came when cab driver Daniel and girlfriend Lily (Samy Naceri and Marion Cotillard) traded witty comebacks with each other. Here the screenwriters wisely chose to play to the strengths of the leads: Queen is allowed plenty of room to get amusingly angry, and Fallon gets to play the meek underdog who takes matters into his own hands only to make things worse. Without going into detail and spoiling gags, let’s say parking spaces and doors are recurrent problems.
Esposito fits in by not overacting and, I must say, looks as stunning as ever in those flattering white shirts. Tim Story does an honest directing job, keeping things at a brisk pace. His first widely known film was “Barbershop”, which had an energetic, urban vibe that was more focused and more genuine than in this film, though. It will be interesting to see what he does on his next project, the currently filming “Fantastic Four” feature adaptation. My final comment is, if you like your laughs served with a generous helping of action, you could do a lot worse than “Taxi”.
Review by Jean-François Tremblay