The Michigan Daily discovered in April 2005 that several articles written by arts editor Marshall W. Lee did not meet the newspaper’s standard of ethical journalism. Parts of these stories had been plagiarized from other news sources. The article below appears to contain plagiarism, and the Daily no longer stands by its content. 


Though utterly inconsistent and forgettable as a feature film, “Barbershop” director Tim Story’s “Taxi” may one day serve as a treasure trove of film trivia. For instance:

What movie featured both Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen and NASCAR superstar Jeff Gordon?

What is the first film to reference online community Friendster?

How about: Where was the last known sighting of former “Saturday Night Live” heartthrob and “Weekend Update” co-anchor Jimmy Fallon?

A bland and brainless full-tilt remake of Luc Besson’s 1998 French hit of the same name, “Taxi” is an aggressively absurd action-comedy filled with flashy car chases, scantily-clad supermodels, obnoxious mugging and a handful of laughs. The opening sequence — which apparently serves to establish that the movie has absolutely no intention of existing within the realm of any conceivable reality — is a montage of aerobatic stunts performed by a sleek and svelte bicycle courier flying over garbage trucks and racing through department stores in Midtown Manhattan. The only problem is that in about the time it takes to toast a bagel, the biker casually defies every basic law of physics. Oh yeah, and it’s Queen Latifah. From here, the “plot” unfolds as follows:

Belle (Latifah) is a New York loudmouth with a hunky boyfriend and a dead-end job. By day, she works as Midtown’s fastest courier, but after dark, she retires to her own private body-shop where she spends long nights and several hundred thousand dollars (who knew bike messengers did so well?) transforming her Crown Victoria into a supercharged yellow taxicab with enough secret buttons and toggles to make even Batman say “Damn girl! That’s fly!” After all, if Belle can’t earn a reputation as the fastest cabbie in NYC, how is she ever going to fulfill her dream of driving on the NASCAR circuit? Enter Andy Washburn (Jimmy Fallon), an overzealous and incompetent New York City cop whose total inability to drive, shoot or intimidate makes Leslie Nielsen’s “Naked Gun” character look like Serpico.

Walking down 53rd Street, Washburn is summoned to a nearby bank robbery, but without wheels of his own, he is forced to hail a taxi driven by you-know-who. As buddy action-flick regulations dictate, the delightfully mismatched duo spend the next 60 minutes bristling at each other’s foibles and quirks as they race up, down and across Manhattan in pursuit of the thieves, who turn out to be a quartet of leggy Brazilian supermodels led by Gisele Bundchen in her first feature-film role.

In their defense, Fallon and Latifah do seem to have a legitimate, natural chemistry that might work well in a half-hour sitcom or perhaps a Honda commercial — Latifah’s street-smart motor mouth riffing off Fallon’s eager idiot — but too often in “Taxi” they are interrupted by the lumbering absurdity of the film. When Washburn and Belle aren’t cracking wise with clever wordplay (Latifah drolly gives Fallon the name “Ace Dumbtura”), the movie relies heavily on car crashes and bizarrely misconceived supporting characters to fill the comic void. The most disturbing and unfunny of these appearances is without a doubt that of film great Ann-Margret (“Bye, Bye Birdie”) as Washburn’s alcoholic mother, a role apparently functioning to affirm the filmmaker’s assumption that nothing is quite so hilarious as the sight of a drunken senior citizen.

Perhaps the film’s most grievous error is its misuse and mistreatment of the consistently likable Queen Latifah, an actress who can be a dynamic, invigorating performer (“Living Out Loud,” “Chicago”) but too often settles for roles in insultingly stupid comedies like “Bringing Down the House.” As Belle, her natural charm and energy are stalled in the muck of stagnant and stereotyped dialogue, and as the childish Fallon becomes increasingly irritating and obnoxious, Latifah slips into comedy cruise control, quipping and grinning without interest or joy.

After a half-dozen or so car chases, “Taxi” ends abruptly and anti-climatically, as if Story had simply grown tired of watching Fallon lazily coast through his scenes and decided to throw in the towel without bothering to wait around for the tired plot to come to a conclusion. It’s as if he simply walked out on his own film in disgust, something many viewers of “Taxi” may be tempted to do as well.


Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars.

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