(In theaters, October 2004) I’m not going to attempt a spirited defence of Luc Besson’s original Taxi because, frankly, it just wasn’t all that good to begin with: But as a French action movie, it wasn’t completely bad, and it had enough action and laughter to make it an amusing diversion. This widely-predicted American remake, on the other hand, is tedious in entirely familiar ways, from flashy nonsensical casting to by-the-number plotting to rampant incoherences. It doesn’t take three minutes for the filmmakers to show their open contempt for the audience by revealing a svelte and athletic bike courier as… waddling hippo Queen Latifah. (OK, on second thoughts that visual simile is going way, way too far — especially considering that I find Latifah attractive. But she’s not a rail-thin model-shaped bike courier.) It gets better once she’s behind the wheel of her taxi (at least we can believe that she can sit there all day), but as a gravity-defying cyclist, it doesn’t work. But she isn’t the worst casting decision of the film by far; that would be the insufferable Jimmy Fallon, here hired to personify pure annoyance. His character should be a sympathetic doofus, but he plays it as an idiot without any redeemable quality. Oh, the film gets point for some amazing chase cinematography (which doesn’t last very long, unfortunately), and for miscasting sex kitten Jennifer Esposito as a police lieutenant. But it’s a fight every step of the way to enjoy anything in which Fallon doesn’t die a horrible death. You would have thought that a thin excuse for car chases transplanted in New York City would be amazing action movie material, but the sad truth is that, neutered by the American action/comedy film process, Taxi ends up being a pale shadow of even a lacklustre original.