Oct 13, 2004 at 12:00 am

Taxi is the newest twist on the buddy flick genre — presenting an interracial, cross-gender odd-couple comedy, starring Jimmy Fallon and Queen Latifah.

While the movie is getting tossed about as the latest potential breakout move for a “Saturday Night Live” alumnus, let’s be clear — Jimmy Fallon is no Eddie Murphy or Chevy Chase. He’s not even Will Ferrell. But Fallon is innocent and awkward enough to come across as a lovable loser in the form of a New York City police detective who meets up with a taxi driver played by Queen Latifah when he commandeers her cab to get to a bank robbery.

The pair is not “The Odd Couple” of television fame or Mel Gibson and Danny Glover of Lethal Weapon. The most lethal thing about this film is Belle’s wicked driving as she chauffeurs the rejected and goofy cop through some of the most thrilling high-speed chase scenes caught on film.

It’s to the credit of casting execs that they’d place the Queen as Belle — a buxom, busty and sassy sister — to play opposite Fallon, a skinny white boy if there ever was one. Thankfully, Latifah steps away from the more stereotypical “‘hood rat” portrayals she’s provided in recent flicks, and relies more on her natural talent and timing. Fallon is mostly nervous and jumpy, great in his use of physical and facial expression in the vein of physical comedy mined well by Jim Carrey.

Fallon and Latifah manage a comical chemistry, and one gets the sense that Taxi could never work without one or the other — especially when they join in for duets of Natalie Cole’s classic hit “This Will Be.”

Eddie B. Allen Jr. writes about film for Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected].