Taxi (October 5/04)
Jimmy Fallon left Saturday Night Live for this?
Thanks to roles in Anything Else and Almost Famous, Fallon's proven that he can actually act. Combine that with his obvious charisma and comedic timing, it'd seem as though he'd be a natural fit for an action/comedy. And presumably, the original French version of Taxi (unseen by me) was just the kind of kinetic, fun ride we've come to expect from Luc Besson (who wrote that movie). Yet something has definitely been lost in the translation, as Taxi presents Fallon as a loud-mouthed, obnoxious boor - something that's partly the fault of director Tim Story, who allows the actor to give an unreasonably broad performance (think Jim Carrey in the second Ace Ventura movie).
Fallon stars as Officer Washburn, an bumbling cop who loses his drivers license after causing thousands of dollars worth of damage while in pursuit of a suspect. En route to a bank robbery, Washburn hails a cab driven by Belle (Queen Latifah) - where the two encounter four criminals that just happen to look like supermodels. Washburn, unable to drive himself to various crime scenes, enlists Belle's help in pursuing the perps - despite the protests of Washburn's Lieutenant (played by Jennifer Esposito).
It's clear that Taxi is going for a Stakeout sort of vibe, mixing action sequences with wacky hijinks. And though it'd seem all the right ingredients are in place - aside from Fallon, Latifah can be funny when given the right material - there's virtually nothing here that works. Story - whose most notable directorial effort thus far is the Ice Cube comedy Barbershop - quickly proves to be the absolute wrong choice for this material, imbuing the film with incredibly obvious choices and a sense of style that's beyond bland. Example: in the sequence where we first see the models, the soundtrack blares Tone Loc's Wild Thing while Story's camera lingers on their bodies (in slow motion, no less!) That sort of thing is indicative of Story's astounding lack of imagination, who - time and time again - takes the safest route possible (though, to be fair, this isn't exactly cutting edge material).
Unbelievably, it took three people to write this mess - Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon, and Jim Kouf - and their script is peppered with dialogue that seems to exist only to further the tired storyline. Washburn perfectly exemplifies this, as it's impossible to believe a police officer could be this inept and keep his job for more than a few days out of the academy. Rather than use any actual police work to solve the case, Washburn instead relies on tips and suggestions garnered from friends and family (Columbo this guy isn't). And let's not even get into the plausibility of Belle, with her tricked-out taxicab (how on earth could a delivery person afford such a vehicle) and ability to always be in the exact right place at the right time.
Then again, it'd be easy enough to overlook such flaws if the film contained even one decent character (which it doesn't). The performances are generally of the sort of caliber one might expect from a movie of this sort, though Latifah admittedly does possess some charisma. And as bad as Fallon is, he's Oscar worthy compared to the four models that play the bank robbers. There's not an ounce of talent within the four of them, and it's clear that they've been cast for the sole purpose of persuading horny teenagers to see the film.
Taxi is, without a doubt, one of the worst films of the year and a disastrous start to Jimmy Fallon's movie career. If he's hoping for a career along the lines of Bill Murray rather than Chevy Chase, he'd better be a little more choosy in the future.