Taxi Review

Oct 07, 2004 | 4:21am EDT

For five years Belle (Queen Latifah) has poured all the cash she has earned from her bike courier job into modifying her Ford Crown Victoria for the day she gets her taxi driver's license. Her 4 p.m. appointment (they close at that time in NYC but we won't nitpick) rolls over through the early evening which really pisses off her brutish beau who had planned to propose to her over a candlelit dinner. But Belle's too keyed up about her new job not to mention her spankin' new yellow cab to be concerned. Then there's Detective Washburn (Jimmy Fallon) a cop whose bumbling vehicular antics cost him his driver's license. While walking the beat Washburn hears about a bank robbery in progress and decides to take a cab--Belle's cab--to the scene of the crime. Following a series of ill-fated events police seize Belle's taxi as evidence and Washburn gets axed from the force. The unlikely duo join forces to get Belle's Crown Victoria back and catch the bad guys which brings us to the film's highlight: Vanessa (Gisele Bundchen) the leader of a gang of all-women thieves who give Belle and Washburn a real run for their money. The teaming of Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon just doesn't work here. Separately Latifah's Belle has a contagious enthusiasm that makes the character really likable. She's determined and sharp but has a playfulness about her that softens the edges. That's why it's so confusing when she goes along with Washburn's questionable plan to track down the bank robbers outside of the law: Her character is too smart to fly by the seat of her pants. Fallon's Washburn on the other hand has almost no redeeming qualities but to paraphrase Jessica Rabbit he's not bad he's just written that way. Washburn is such a bumbling idiot in the film's first half that his transformation into supercop is too contradictory to accept. Together there isn't an iota of chemistry between the two stars--until you see the outtakes with the closing credits. The camaraderie they appear to have shared while filming just never transpired on the final cut. Kudos however to Brazilian model Bundchen who surprisingly injects the right amount of humor into the role of sexy bank robber Vanessa. Honorable mention goes to the Vanessa's getaway car a chiaretto red metallic BMW 745Li sedan which outperforms its castmates by a quarter mile. Director Tim Story who helmed the outrageously funny Barbershop falls from grace with the mega-lame Taxi the English-language remake of the 1998 hit French comedy that spawned two sequels. But this adaptation credited to more than five scribes is so implausible it's almost insulting. I don't know what's worst the fact that so-called car enthusiast Belle poured that much money into souping up an automatic Crown Victoria or the fact that her dreams of becoming a NASCAR driver come true by the time the credits roll. Taxi's final scene complete with a cameo appearance by Jeff Gordon might as well have been sponsored by NASCAR's "Drive for Diversity" program aimed at creating minority drivers and crews for regional races. But until the day comes when Gordon faces a black competitor--an overweight one at that--it's impossible to buy Belle as the Tiger Woods of NASCAR. The far-fetched storyline is exacerbated by director of photography Vance Burberry's unflattering lighting which grossly emphasizes every one of generally beautiful Queen Latifah's 2 000-odd pores and pancake makeup.

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