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Movie Review: Taxi

Review for 'Taxi'
Genres: Comedy, Action
Running Time: 97 min
MPAA rating: PG-13 (Brief Violence, Language, Sensuality)
Release Date: 2004-10-08
Tags: There are no tags.
By "Chicago Tribune"

By Robert K. Elder, Chicago Tribune Staff Writer
"Taxi," which mixes supermodels and NASCAR sensibilities, would seem to be the equivalent of those hot-rod magazines with voluptuous beauties caressing the hoods of four-wheeled schoolboy fantasies.
But this action-comedy doesn't even live up to those rather limited expectations.
Queen Latifah stars as Belle, a NASCAR-obsessed cabbie with a souped-up taxi who's trying to help hapless Detective Washburn (Jimmy Fallon) catch a quartet of supermodel bank robbers led by Vanessa (Victoria's Secret spokesbody Gisele Bundchen).
At the beginning of the film, Washburn gets demoted to beat cop and loses his driver's license after totaling three police vehicles. When he catches Latifah's cab to the first supermodel heist, they end up as accidental partners, working outside the law (as the rogue-cop genre dictates) to solve the spree of robberies.
Despite some gratuitous, lingering shots of Bundchen with her scantily clad cohorts and some equally heated, rubber-burning car chases through Manhattan, "Taxi" never really gets out of second gear.
"Taxi," a Hollywood remake of French producer Luc Besson's popular French film series, isn't a gear-head action movie (a la "The Fast and the Furious"), a straight-ahead comedy or even a bikini-gazing contest. Director Tim Story ("Barbershop") does conjure up, however, enough chutzpah to stop his movie dead its tracks to allow Bundchen to "frisk" (read: grope) saucy Lt. Marta Robbins (Jennifer Esposito) for weapons as she takes her hostage.
Separately, Latifah and Fallon are funny and even endearing, especially Fallon in his eager-to-please, misfit posturing. (Watch for his impression of Al Pacino in "Scarface.") Together, they don't quite click, and their comic banter never rises above bickering.
Producer Besson deserves praise for dodging the hobgoblin of obvious casting by hiring Latifah for a role made famous by a French male actor (Samy Naceri). Plus, there's just something delicious about sassy, full-bodied Latifah chasing down four underdressed, stick-figure models.
There's a feminist theory term paper in there somewhere.
Since his debut role as a savvy road manager in "Almost Famous" and a stint with HBO's "Band of Brothers," comedian Fallon looked to be crafting a varied, chameleon-like film career.
But perhaps it was inevitable, given his talents, that he'd eventually take the wheel of a broad comedy.
With "Taxi," Fallon doesn't crash, but he doesn't escape unscathed either. Essentially, Washburn has to redeem himself by solving the case and driving without incident - a skill most of us in this country have mastered by age 16.
It's such a flimsy, predictable structure that as Latifah barks, "The money for the girl!" at the hostage-taking robbers, she hits the last perfect cliche for a movie riddled with comic potholes.
Directed by Tim Story; screenplay by Robert Ben Garant, Thomas Lennon and Jim Kouf, based on an earlier screenplay by Luc Besson; photographed by Vance Burberry; production design by Mayne Schuyler Berke; music by Christophe Beck and Tim Boland; edited by Stuart Levy; produced by Luc Besson. A 20th Century Fox release; opened Wednesday, Oct. 8. Running time: 1:37. MPAA rating: PG-13 (language, sensuality and brief violence).
Belle - Queen Latifah
Washburn - Jimmy Fallon
Lt. Marta Robbins - Jennifer Esposito
Vanessa - Gisele Bundchen
Jesse - Henry Simmons

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Jul 28, 2007 - Chicago Tribune
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