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Case Number 06247

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Taxi (2004)

Fox // 2004 // 97 Minutes // Rated PG-13
Reviewed by Judge Patrick Bromley // February 22nd, 2005

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All Rise...

This film made Judge Patrick Bromley want to hurl. Which, coincidentally, is what happened the last time he rode in a taxi.

The Charge

He's armed, but she's dangerous.

Opening Statement

So…let me get this straight…Jimmy Fallon left Saturday Night Live for this??

Facts of the Case

See, there's this cop, and he's played by Jimmy Fallon (Almost Famous). But he's not like a regular cop, see, he's a cop who CAN'T DRIVE! That's right, he's a BAD DRIVER! And possibly even RETARDED! His lieutenant, played by Jennifer Esposito (Summer of Sam), YELLS at him A LOT! But, get this, they used to DATE! So, like, there's THAT!

Jimmy meets a cabbie played by Queen Latifah (Chicago), and she's a really GOOD DRIVER! And that's funny, see, because Jimmy's such a BAD DRIVER! Are you getting this? Well, they don't like each other! In fact, she YELLS at him A LOT! But he commandeers her SUPER-CHARGED TAXI, and together they chase BANK ROBBERS! And not just regular bank robbers! These bank robbers are actually BRAZILIAN SUPER MODELS!

What else? Oh, yeah—one of the SUPER MODEL BANK ROBBERS is played by real-life super model Gisele Bundchen! And Jimmy Fallon's mom is played by Ann-Margaret (Carnal Knowledge), who might also be RETARDED! But really she's just a DRUNK! And that TAXI goes REALLY FAST! And everyone YELLS at Jimmy Fallon A LOT!

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA!!!!

The Evidence

Tim Story's Taxi is an unfunny movie featuring unfunny people doing unfunny things. What exactly it wants us to be laughing at, I cannot say: Car chases? Incessant bickering? Alcoholism? There are so many bad ideas crashing into one another at such a frantic pace that the film can't keep from imploding, beginning with the premise. Was there any chance that this material could be funny? We're left scratching our heads—what were they thinking?

The screenplay, based on a 1998 French film written by Luc Besson (The Fifth Element), is credited to three writers: Jim Kouf, Ben Garant, and Thomas Lennon. The latter two gentleman were part of MTV's late, great sketch comedy series The State and are now on Comedy Central's inspired Reno 911!. They're funny people. What the hell happened? There are no signs of their brand of humor in the finished film, so does the screenplay they submitted even exist anymore? Was there nothing funny to begin with? Or was the third writer brought in to make the comedy more "accessible" or "mainstream"? A quick visit over to the Internet Movie Database tells me that the third writer, one Jim Kouf, is also responsible for penning National Treasure and Snow Dogs, so I've got a pretty good idea what must have happened.

What's most shocking about all of this is the fact that anyone involved with the film claims to have used a screenplay at all, as I'm not convinced that was the case. The two main characters, Fallon and Latifah (would Queen be her first name, or is that, like, a title?), have exactly one line apiece; Fallon mumbles something stupid and half incoherent, and Latifah tells him to, "Shut up, fool." Sometimes she says, "You're crazy, fool," and still others it's, "Damn, fool," but the gist is pretty much the same. Every line of dialogue they have is basically a variation on their one line—the exchanges are as grating as they are repetitive. When someone actually needs to use dialogue to advance the plot, it's done as an afterthought; in one scene, Fallon wakes up from a night's sleep and instantly remembers a conversation he heard the bank robbers having in Portuguese (and yes, there are many of us who do dream of Brazilian supermodels, but that's not what they're going for here—even that joke isn't capitalized on). And it just so happens that Queen Latifah speaks Portuguese! And that this one piece of information, recalled at random, is a key piece of information for cracking the case! Man, that was easy!

It's difficult to tell whether Jimmy Fallon is not yet leading man material, or if he's just painfully miscast here—though not for lack of trying; he's so pantingly eager to please, he practically humps the audience's leg in approval-seeking desperation. He's not convincing as a cop—he's hardly even convincing as a human. Fallon's not entirely without talent; he had a certain charm in his early days on SNL, and has been effective in smaller roles in both Almost Famous and Anything Else. That those films were directed by Cameron Crowe and Woody Allen, respectively, tells me that Fallon ought to stick with either smaller parts or better directors. Queen Latifah fares considerably better, if for no other reason than she already commands the screen as an actress—she brings a personality to the role, unlike Fallon, who simply washes away. You just want to grab him, shake him, and tell him to stop trying so hard—it isn't working.

Taxi arrives on DVD courtesy of Fox in a special edition with more extras than anyone could want (to be fair, any extras would be more than I want, but that's just me). The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is enhanced for 16x9 playback; detail is meticulous and colors hold up well. There is some visible edge enhancement, thought it's difficult to distinguish from the haloing that appears as a result of the obvious rear-screen projection effects used in any scene taking place in the taxi (such scenes make up a good part of the film). The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is lively enough, giving a significant rumble to the lower-end activity and providing some inventive separation effects, but fails to balance these with the dialogue (leaving it somewhat buried in the mix at times).

The disc features two separate versions of Taxi: the theatrical cut, and a special "extended" edition that runs a few minutes longer but adds nothing—just more repetition to a movie that doesn't need any. It's actually difficult to tell where the new footage is, exactly, and the fact that director Tim Story's audio commentary appears only on the theatrical cut means that he's not able to point it out. His track is nothing special, providing some background and logistical information and seemingly not grasping just how much his film falls flat. Some deleted scenes and a handful of featurettes are also included, all presumably to prove that JIMMY FALLON REALLY IS FUNNY—an idea that fails to come across.

Closing Statement

Just about every film critic I read included Taxi on his or her end-of-the-year "Worst of 2004" list. I guess it's like they say—fifty million Elvis fans can't be wrong.

The Verdict

Crash and Burn, all of them.

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Scales of Justice

Video: 87
Audio: 82
Extras: 45
Acting: 72
Story: 67
Judgment: 69

Perp Profile

Studio: Fox
Video Formats:
• 2.35:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (French)
• Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (Spanish)
Subtitles:
• English
• Spanish
Running Time: 97 Minutes
Release Year: 2004
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13
Genre:
• Comedy

Distinguishing Marks

• Optional Extended Version of Movie
• Audio Commentary Featuring Director Tim Story
• Deleted Scenes
• Four Behind-the-Scenes Featurettes
• Comedy Central's Reel Comedy
• Theatrical Trailer

Accomplices

• IMDb








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