Let me start this off by saying I am extremely disappointed this is not an adaptation of the 1978 – 1983 television series. The mere chance that someone (aside from Jim Carrey) could completely ruin the genius of Andy Kaufman by doing a bad Latka Gravas character seems like a natural choice for a studio executive to make.
As it is, Jimmy Fallon (can anyone actually tell the difference between him and Chris Kattan?) and Queen Latifah (who I can only assume is holding someone’s child hostage in exchange for a film career) star as a cop and a taxi driver respectively whose lives intersect as they maneuver through New York traffic and a myriad of plot holes in search of something the ancient Romans once referred to as “humor”. Anyone want to place bets?
Fallon and Latifah mug at the camera as if madcap hijinks are ensuing before their very eyes. Fallon actually looks rather sick to his stomach and QL flashes her wide, mischievous grin, which is both the beginning and end of her acting abilities. Fallon looks very serious, as if he’s not in a comedy. Oh – wait – he’s not.
It was surprising to me how much screen time is devoted to the back-story of Jimmy Fallon’s New York cop who apparently can’t drive. No, that’s not quite right. What surprised me was how little time was spent on Queen Latifah’s character. As the co-headliner of the movie she gets surprisingly short shrift in the trailer, mostly just shots of her reacting to Fallon and his antics.
Considering Latifah can officially be referred to as “Oscar Nominee Queen Latifah” you have to wonder what rationale there was for pushing her to the background of the trailer. It’s possible that her role isn’t actually that big and the marketing team didn’t want to misrepresent the movie (I’ll take a moment for the laughter to die down). It’s also possible the test screenings showed her plotline to be the weakest and so it was felt safer to hinge the movie on Fallon’s character. Watch the trailer again and see what I’m talking about.
Presented completely in Flash-animation, the thinness of the website should provide a large and obvious red flag as to the thinness of the movie itself.
First off, the trailer is presented only in Quicktime. As I stated in my take on the “Alien Vs. Predator” campaign, this is extraordinarily short sited. The whole point of a movie’s website is to keep people there and encourage them to visit the whole site. I realize Quicktime is a great high-quality format, but not everyone has it and if people are using dial-up modems then a large Quicktime trailer may just be too much for their connection. This may encourage them to go to Yahoo! or some other site where they can find it in Windows Media or Real Player format. Research has shown that once people leave a site – especially if it’s because of frustration – they’re not coming back. This is extremely shortsighted in my opinion.
The “Story” constitutes an entire two-sentence paragraph. Wow. That’s something. Reminds me of Tom Skerritt in “A River Runs Through It” continually telling his son to make a writing assignment half as long. “Cast and Crew” has a list of personnel in front of and behind the camera but contains no bios or filmographies. There are some “Behind the Scenes” pictures but all seem to be so long range that it’s almost impossible to make anything out. Besides, it’s not like this is “Lord of the Rings” where a glimpse of the production yields various details that pass by too quickly to notice in the movie.
“Stills” has a fair amount of pictures from the movie, including a few of what seem to be some all girl gang of bank robbers in the flick. Frankly, this just reminded me of the C.L.I.T. gang from “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back”. (I’ll now take a moment while everyone goes through Jay’s “I am the master of the clit” speech. All finished? Great. Let’s continue.) There are “Character Profiles” at the bottom of each page that, when you click on say Jimmy Fallon (while imagining punching him in the crotch) you get a brief profile and video clip that is taken straight from footage already found in the trailer.
The “Downloads” section contains, in addition to the usual Wallpaper and Buddy Icons, a calendar you can create by dragging stills from the movie to blank pages and then print out in calendar form. Great idea, but why use this on Taxi and not, say, a big-budget sci-fi flick or comic book adaptation. Oh, right, because then they wouldn’t be able to license a calendar for sale with those pictures. I keep forgetting. Finally, there is a “Game” that looks like something developed originally for an Atari 2600.
As I stated, the reliance on Jimmy Fallon in the promotions says to me that something is telling the executives that Queen Latifah just doesn’t work in this movie. Frankly, after her Oscar-nominated (still working on processing that) role in “Chicago” and success with Steve Martin in “Bringing Down the House” (something else I still can’t consciously comprehend) working on a B-level release like this is a bit surprising. I get the feeling she’s a supporting character in this one and it’s something she may have agreed to do a while ago.
By putting her on the poster the goal is to attract those people who thought she was hilarious in her previous movies, but playing up Fallon in the trailer shows where the true focus of the movie is.
As moviemaking costs increase, the pressure to successfully market those movies becomes greater. In an attempt to show how marketers are trying to put the most hinders in the theater seats, Chris Thilk breaks down why some movie campaigns work and some don’t. The posters for “The Rocketeer” and “Unforgiven” remain two of his all-time favorites. For Chris’ ongoing movie journal and other various musings, visit his Random Thoughts blog.