Taxi (review)

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Taken for a Ride

Okay, I think I’ve figured it out. Taxi was shot about ten years ago and has been sitting in the can, eagerly awaiting the moment when Jimmy Fallon finally broke out as the next big SNL thing, as the new Mike Myers or something, but the producers finally gave up on Fallon and figured they’d just dump the movie out into the autumn pre-Oscar-bait chasm and let it fall where it may. C’mon: it’s the only explanation for the Ace Ventura jokes and Whitney Houston references and Tone Loc’s “Wild Thing” on the soundtrack like it’s something fresh and exciting.

But… wait. Fallon’s only been failing to distinguish himself as a cast member of Saturday Night Live since 1998… and this is a remake of a French film by Luc Besson from that same year…

No, I guess I don’t understand at all.
Maybe it’s like a wormhole/time travel-y kind of thing, how a movie can be here and in the early 1990s simultaneously. It’s not like Taxi is trying to hijack some hip by being all retro like the kids are into these days (or if it is, it’s an even bigger failure than I’m seeing) — it’s like the screenwriters have been locked in a box for the last decade, with no understanding of how pop culture has (d)evolved, and were let out only to write this movie. Did they emerge, blinking at the harsh blue glow of the television, and ask whether Kurt Cobain was still cool?

The real question is, though: Where is that dark, cramped box, and can we lock Jimmy Fallon in there before he makes another movie? The man is an astrophysical wonder himself, a black hole of funny, a yawning void of charisma. He’s like the wannabe class clown who, because he is incapable of forcing himself into the center ring by being humorous, decides that getting attention by being obnoxious and annoying will do instead. And he’s not even good at that, either: Fallon has nothing, not the manic energy of a Jim Carrey that makes you want to medicate him so he’ll sit still for five minutes, not the skin-crawling repulsiveness of an Adam Sandler that makes you want to hose him down. Fallon elicits no reaction whatsoever beyond mild wonder at how someone so moronic can be so boring. Apparently, the studios have been after Fallon for years to make a big-screen appearance, which raises two more questions: What kind of hallucinogenic drugs are studio heads on? And what kind of toxic WMDs must those other scripts offered to Fallon have been if this is the one he finally agreed to do?

Cuz it ain’t just the outdated attempts at humor or the blandness of its “star” that hurts. There’s the painful “buddy cop” stuff between Fallon and Queen Latifah (Bringing Down the House, Chicago), who is way too good for this junk, who squashes Fallon like he’s a bug on the windshield of the taxi she hauls his sorry ass around in, which is kind of a metaphor for the movie, she and her Major Movie Star Charm carrying him and his vacuity (or trying to; it’s not an easy task). There’re the incoherent car chases featuring the first CGI stunt driving I’ve seen and nonexistent Manhattan alleyways: Taxi, it seems, was partly shot in the Southern California section of New York City, with scenes that actually jump from LA to NYC and back again from one shot to the next. There’s a big wide open freeway… there’s Central Park West… there’s a street in Beverly Hills….

But wait, there’s so much more to hate. How about Ann-Margret (!) embarrassing herself as Fallon’s drunken mother? How about the attempts at poignancy, as if there were characters an audience might care about here? How about the film debut of Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bündchen, really breaking out creatively to portray a very tall, very thin woman who stands around in skimpy clothing and fuck-me heels with a finger coyly in her mouth? It’s all enough to make me feel sorry for Jennifer Esposito, who here plays the world’s most unlikely police sergeant, and I didn’t even pity her when she appeared in The Master of Disguise.

The worst of it might be this: The plot, which is skimpier than Gisele’s costumes, turns on a New York City law so obscure that it’s entirely invented. Alternate side of the street parking is to accommodate street cleaning, not garbage collection. Sheesh. Anybody who doesn’t know that shouldn’t be allowed to make a movie in NYC… even if it was made mostly in Los Angeles.

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