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Fox Home Entertainment presents
Taxi (2004)

"Buckle up for safety, motherf*****!"
- Belle Williams (Queen Latifah)

Review By: Jeff Rosado   
Published: February 16, 2005

Stars: Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Gisele Bundchen, Henry Simmons
Other Stars: Ann-Margret, Jennifer Esposito, Christian Kane, Boris McGiver, Ana Cristina De Oliveira, Ingrid Vandebosch, Magali Amadei, Patton Oswalt
Director: Tim Story

Manufacturer: Deluxe Digital Studios
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language, sexuality, brief violence
Run Time: 01h:37m:02s
Release Date: February 15, 2005
UPC: 024543166788
Genre: action comedy


Style
Grade
Substance
Grade
Image Transfer
Grade
Audio Transfer
Grade
Extras
Grade
B- C-AA+ B

DVD Review

During a large majority of the 20-minute making-of featurette included as a bonus on this DVD, stars Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon are on; the former Saturday Night Live impressionist and Weekend Update alumnus is like an overgrown kid, making wickedly funny observations on everything from fuzzy boom mike windscreens to cracking up his co-star with off-kilter voices and characterizations. As for 'Tifah, she's ever the package of sass, confidence, and charisma, a bundle of energy who can't wait for the next take; a professional that lifts the spirits of everyone from the crew to her fellow thespians, and just the kind of actress everybody wants to have around a movie set.

So, why do these positive characteristics turn out to be mostly no-shows over the course of Fox's big ticket 2004 theatrical offering?

The rapper formerly known as Dana Owens is Belle Williams, a Nascar-worshiping, mechanical genius, pizza delivery lady who's finally graduated to the four-wheel school of cab driving in the Big Apple, eager to christen her personally constructed, high-tech taxi and zoom past Times Square. While Belle is in the middle of what most of us would file under the category of best day in our memory banks, local NYC cop Washburn (Fallon) is not—by a long shot. One unfortunate slip during an undercover assignment and a shootout ensues. Time to bring out Plan B: rush to the unmarked car, put the portable blue light on top, slam the accelerator, and go. But instead of taking to the streets, he crashes tail end first into a local deli.

Soon after police lieutenant Marta Robbins (Jennifer Esposito) suspends his license, Washburn spots a bank robbery in progress by four nicely attired boys who turn out to be leggy babes, including real life runway wonder Gisele Bundchen, who plays Vanessa, as the ringleader.

What a convenient excuse to bring the cop and the cabbie together!

Sadly, Taxi plods along like an auto badly in need of a tuneup, or in the case of this Americanized remake of a Luc Benson film, a fresh script instead of reheated dialogue that sounds like it was generated from bits and pieces of mismatched partner movies. Now, most cinematic analysts have played the SNL small-screen-to-multiplex curse card on Fallon, which to me is a cop-out; lest many forget his terrific performance in Almost Famous as Stillwater's manager, so the kid is not without talent. Latifah is equally wasted in a generic role that fails to capitalize on the sassy charm that has been so well exhibited in films like Chicago and Living Out Loud. Surprisingly, the most impressive performance here belongs to Bundchen, whose sexy presence and confidence overcomes the underdevelopment of her character (the Victoria's Secret mainstay would make a terrific villain in a future installment of the James Bond franchise).

In more positive aspects, the film does possess some impressive action set pieces (especially the well staged finale of a face-off between the goodies and baddies, boding well for director Tim Story's forthcoming big screen adaptation of Fantastic Four, due in summer 2005) and good change of pace casting, especially in the romantic subplot between Latifah and NYPD Blue regular, Henry Simmons; it's nice to see that a woman doesn't need to be thin as a pencil to land a hunk. Still, such off-the-beaten-path moments, including some halfway decent dialogue between the two leads that are far more involving than the abundance of predictable clichés that drag the proceedings down, and an impressive bit performance from Ann-Margret as Washburn's Ma, is not enough.

Rating for Style: B-
Rating for Substance: C-

 

Image Transfer

 One
Aspect Ratio2.35:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes
Anamorphicyes


Image Transfer Review: Absolutely pristine transfer, abundant in rich colors, excellent clarity in every aspect from facial tones to the location shooting. Save for occasional bits of softness, this is practically perfect.

Image Transfer Grade: A

 

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
DS 2.0French, Spanishyes
Dolby Digital
5.1
Englishyes


Audio Transfer Review: Although it's a given that action films like Taxi will possess an active soundstage, I wasn't prepared for how electrically vibrant this track is. Constant directionality during the action sequences with superb activity from the rears that get so worked up, you may want to have a towel on hand to dry them off. But what's really impressive is the versatility; it balances high octane aural flash with wonderful clarity to the quieter scenes to such a point, you don't need to adjust your master volume; it even sounds great at lower levels. Well done.

Audio Transfer Grade: A+

 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu with music
Scene Access with 24 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, Spanish with remote access
5 Other Trailer(s) featuring The Girl Next Door, Napoleon Dynamite, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, The Sandlot 2, American Dad
4 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Tim Story
Packaging: Keep Case
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extra Extras:
  1. The Meter's Running: Making Taxi
  2. Lights, Camera, Blue Screen
  3. Jimmy Fallon: Tour Guide
  4. Beautiful Criminals Montage
  5. Comedy Central Special: Reel Comedy-Taxi
Extras Review: Once again, we have another strange example of a bad movie, good supplements DVD.The dual-layer disc contains both the theatrical and extended cuts; although the former is a bit more tolerable given 10 minutes of shaving, it's still a frustrating experience.

Beginning with The Meter's Runnin': Making Taxi is a terrific 20-minute mini-documentary filled with funny outtakes, plenty of b-roll footage capturing a lively shoot, good interviews with the principals (including a nice learn-as-you-go story from Fallon on how it's probably not a good idea to be bouncing off the wall with excitement in your trailer for hours only to be called back in front of the cameras at a moment's notice) and very interesting tech talk from crew members, including an impressive bit on a recently introduced, groundbreaking piece of film equipment called the Russian Arm, which will no doubt be a mainstay on every action picture in the coming years.

Lights, Camera, Blue Screen features visual effects supervisor Ray McIntyre Jr. taking us through the process of blue screen photography, including an indepth look at another cool behind-the-scenes toy involving hydraulics to simulate human movement inside a vehicle without endangering the lives of actors.

Other goodies: Tour Guide: Jimmy Fallon features the funny boy taking us for a walk on the set prior to the filming of an action sequence, riffing with the crew, making silly jokes (most of which stick) and so on; Beautiful Criminals is one for the guys, featuring all the high points with the lovely Giselle and her gun-totin' posse in one conveniently packaged two-minute montage; a quartet of deleted scenes, most of which were rightly excised (save for a halfway funny bit where Washburn belittles a little kid for littering at the zoo); a laid back but refreshingly vivid commentary from Story (on the theatrical cut only) with many on-set stories (including a nice tip of the hat to Ann-Margret, whose veteran status came in handy during the filming of a lengthy, dialogue-based scene, helping it to progress much quicker); and Reel Comedy: Taxi, another in Comedy Central's promotional fluff machine half-hours that is salvaged big time by co-hosts Ben Garant and Thomas Lennon, better known to viewers of Reno 911! as Jim and Travis Jr., who play their interview duties in character completely straightfaced, which naturally leaves Fallon (the Harvey Korman of the 21st century) in stitches throughout; I'm sure viewers at home will busting guts, too.

Extras Grade: B

 

Final Comments

Despite two good leads and an impressive big screen turn from one of the world's most photogenic models, Taxi sputter onto the highway of "merely mediocre." Ironically, the super behind-the-scenes supplements save the disc from being a complete waste of time.

 


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