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Buckle-up for Safety, It's Going to be One Hell of a Ride

Anyone that's been to NY knows that jumping into the backseat of a cab can sometimes be a death wish. No offense to cabbies, who navigate the city streets with all the zeal of NASCAR drivers, who at least can get you wherever you want on time. In director Tim Story's (Barbershop) latest movie Taxi, when the driver tells you to buckle up, she means it, and she can get you from midtown to JFK in nine minutes.

Queen Latifah is Belle, a crazy speed demon bike messenger (the opening sequence of her -- well the stunt double -- racing via bike through Manhattan into Brooklyn is nothing short of breathtaking) who retires to become a crazy, speed demon cabbie. Jimmy Fallon is Officer Washburn, a clumsy, slightly dim-witted, driving-impaired cop who gives NYPD a bad name. After his driver-license is confiscated (thank god), he jumps into Belle's cab and grants her full immunity from all traffic laws, in order to get to the scene of a bank robbery. Thus, the dynamic duo is formed. A string of bank robberies by a quartet of Brazilian beauties lands the two in heaps of trouble and plenty of car damage.

With a screenplay by Ben Garant, a co-creator/writer of the offbeat and hilarious Comedy Central show "Reno 911!", it should come as no surprise that Taxi is very funny. Latifah and Fallon have excellent chemistry; his shenanigans (which do get a bit tired towards the end of the film but just when you think you can't handle anymore, he becomes less of an idiot) are balanced out by her cool and collected demeanor.

In addition to comedic antics, there's lots of eye candy of the insanely gorgeous Gisele Bundchen and Belle's studly man Henry Simmons. Fear not, there are a few scenes full of gratuitous body shots of the models/bank robbers, one of which includes, of course, a bikini sequence.

There are a few unlikely scenarios, such as Belle just happening to know Portuguese and her shacking up with Washburn (a cop whom she hardly knows and who has so far made her life a living hell) when she gets shut out of her own apartment for the night, used to move the story along. But these are tolerable enough especially when there are riotous scenes to balance them out. The funniest scene in the movie comes when Belle and Washburn have locked themselves in a back office after a violent confrontation with the Brazilian Babes in a garage. Washburn unwittingly unleashes a massive dose of nitrous into the ill-ventilated space giving Belle and he the high of a lifetime. Their ensuing giggling fits will leave you light-headed as well.

The acting is up-to-par, except for Washburn's Lieutenant played by the bad casting choice of Jennifer Esposito. The scene-stealer here is Ann-Margaret as Washburn's heavy-drinking, effervescent mother. The acting coupled with a sharp script and a toe-tapping soundtrack, full of aptly chosen hits, makes Taxi a definite go-see.

Stars: 4 out of 5