Ah, the Saturday Night Live Curse: For every Mike Myers, there’s a Dana Carvey; for every Adam Sandler, a David Spade; and for every Will Ferrell, a—yes—Jimmy Fallon. As Taxi’s Officer Washburn, his first major role since misguidedly leaving SNL for, uh, a serious acting career, the show’s most painfully annoying goofball stars as the world’s most frustratingly inept cop. Of course, that any bumbling, overeager idiot can be issued a badge, gun, and police cruiser is a Hollywood given, but once Washburn—who can’t even attempt to requisition a vehicle without inadvertently causing a multiple-car pileup, much less parallel-park—totals his third set of wheels, pouty-lipped Lt. Marta Robbins (Jennifer Esposito) revokes his license and forces him to hoof it. So what’s a floundering flatfoot to do when a quartet of buxom Brazilian babes start relieving the city’s financial institutions of their assets? Why, find a wisecrackin’ bike-courier-turned-cabbie named Belle (Queen Latifah) with an illegally turbo-charged ride, and get her to do the chasing for you, of course. This oh-so-unlikely pairing sets Taxi up for an endless stream of culture-clash clichés, but after Belle tells Washburn, “I don’t usually stop for white guys. It’s my way of balancing the universe,” the sassy-black-lady-suffers-a-stupid-white-boy jokes are kept to a minimum. Much like the original—a rushed project scripted and produced by French filmmaker Luc Besson in just 30 days—director Tim Story’s remake doesn’t rely on character development and dialogue so much as it does on sheer speed. So forget the trio of Reno 911! and Angel vets who adapted Besson’s screenplay. Forget, even, Story himself. The folks at the controls here are rookie cinematographer Vance Burberry, who turns out to have a surprisingly keen eye, and editor Stuart Levy, who also worked on Sylvester Stallone’s 2001 race-car drama, Driven, and already knew a thing or two about getting things to go, go, go—painfully thin plots excepted, of course. Yet for every flaw the Americanized adaptation inherits from its predecessor, there’s also an improvement: Successfully swapping the close-quartered streets of Marseilles for those of New York, Taxi allows plenty of space for Belle’s souped-up cab to zip through those breathtaking chase sequences. Keep looking at the road, in fact, and you might not notice Fallon at all: Harmless, entertaining, and brisk, Taxi’s 97 minutes get the man on and off the big screen much faster than any curse could.

—Matthew Borlik

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