“Superman has kryptonite,” explains Washburn (Jimmy Fallon), showing that even the greats have their weaknesses. “Indiana Jones has snakes. Whitney Houston has Bobby Brown.” (Ba-dum-pump) He might as well have added that movies have former Saturday Night Live stars, who are brought in to sell tickets and add comedy to weak scripts just by virtue of their presence.
This is a “oneza” movie — you know, one’s a dedicated cop who is the world’s worst driver (Fallon) and one’s a speed-loving would-be NASCAR driver on her first day with a souped-up taxicab (Queen Latifah as Belle). When he hails her cab to get to a bank robbery, it leads to all kinds of misunderstandings, shoot-outs, and car chases before they catch up with the culprits, a gang of (yes, really) four Brazillian supermodels.
Queen Latifah and Fallon have strong screen presences and great comic timing and the movie has a few moments of silly fun and a couple of slick stunts. The talented Jennifer Esposito gives the exasperated police lieutenant role, always required in movies like this one, some warmth and appeal. Supermodel Giselle Bundchen is primarily called upon to lean over in low-cut shirts and to have extremely long legs, both of which she does well. She is also occasionally called upon to act, which she does not do well.
The movie has some numbingly obvious musical cues and even more numblingly obvious jokes, with situation after situation rather than story. The script is so sit-com-ish you almost expect a laugh track. You almost even think the movie could use one, especially for uninspired set-ups with no possible reason for the story, like having Washburn and his boss/former girlfriend dress up in completely unbelieveable outfits for an undercover operation, and too-convenient resolutions that remove whatever comic or narrative impact the situations might have had. It all seems a little tired, from the lead-off to the tune of a hit song from a year ago to the attempt to find some humor in a character who has the same name as Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia. This is one “Taxi,” you should think twice before hailing. (But if you do see it, wait until the very end because the best joke in the movie comes during the outtakes over the credits.)
Parents should know that the movie has a very light-hearted, even cavalier attitude toward substance abuse. Washburn’s mother is an alcoholic, and this is primarily played for comedy. Washburn and Belle are exposed to nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), also played for comedy (including a side effect of making their voices deeper, a sort of anti-helium). Parents should make sure that children and teens who see this movie understand that inhaling nitrous oxide for non-medicinal reasons can be dangerous. The movie has a few strong words, including some not usually found in PG-13’s, like an anatomical term and the n-word (heard in a song lyric). The movie has a lot of comedy-style violence, with many car chases and explosions and some shoot-outs. Some characters are injured, but no one is killed or badly hurt. There are some mild sexual references. A strength of the movie is the portrayal of capable and intelligent minority women and inter-racial respect and cooperation.
Families who see this movie should talk about why Washburn was a bad driver and what makes someone a good driver.
Families who enjoy this movie will also enjoy D.C. Cab and Quicksilver. They might want to take a look at the far better French original version also called Taxi.