Monday, January 28, 2019

I’d Love To Turn You On At The Movies #210 - D.C. Cab (1983, dir. Joel Schumacher)

Whenever I talk about how D.C. Cab is one of my favorite films to anyone familiar with it, the most common response that I get is, “and you said you DON’T smoke weed, right?” This makes sense, considering the film is essentially a series of sight gags meandering around plot points and subplot points that make very little sense together. This is not a hindrance. The film is perfect for those with the shortest of attention spans.
D.C. Cab is Joel Schumacher’s second theatrical film, and everything about it screams “low budget,” down to the editing and the film stock. Even the DVD release is bare bones. It has no subtitles, no other languages but English and lacks even a menu for chapter selection. Prior to D.C. Cab’s release, Mr. Schumacher released The Incredible Shrinking Woman (1981) and would follow it up with the one-two punch of box office favorites St. Elmo’s Fire (1985) and The Lost Boys (1987), so it’s not like Mr. Schumacher didn’t already have his footing as a filmmaker. No, he made D.C. Cab awful-looking on purpose. Since the plot revolves around a ramshackle taxicab company in Washington D.C., I think the low budget, almost “new-hire-training video” quality was completely intentional. Especially when you consider the cast, on which Schumacher absolutely did not skimp. The cast is made up of a combination of ‘80s pop culture giants (Mr. T, the Barbarian Brothers), up-and-coming stand-up comedians (Bill Maher, Paul Rodriguez) former sitcom stars (Max Gail, Whitman Mayo) and Gary Busey. It even features a small but significant cameo from R&B singer Irene Cara as herself.
Albert (Adam Baldwin) is a wide-eyed twentysomething with big dreams to become a cab driver. Obviously every young person dreams of one day driving a cab when they get older, so no issue there really. When his father dies Albert decides to move to Washington, D.C. and track down his dad’s best friend Harold (Max Gail), who owns the D.C. Cab Company. Albert goes through a series of ride-alongs with the eccentric staff of the cab company, including Cleveland Rastafarian Bongo (Otis Day), womanizing racist Elvis fan Dell (Busey), fast-talking Tyrone (Charlie Barnett), and tough but sensitive Samson (Mr. T) to name a few. Many of the ride-alongs happen in almost rapid-fire succession, creating a sort of sketch or vignette effect for the first half of the film. The fledgling company eventually comes into some money when a valuable violin is recovered from one of the cabs and the staff are granted the reward. Even though most of the staff make it clear that they hate driving cabs and would rather take the money and run, Harold, with the help of an inspiring pep-talk from Albert, convinces the staff to invest their share back into the company. This leads to the drivers renewing their licenses (including special permits for airport drop-offs) and new paint jobs on both the cab stand and the cars, but that’s about it. Somehow, this boosts morale so much that the drivers start loving their jobs and their new co-worker. Albert is then implicated in a kidnapping (because of course) and it is left up to the drivers to bail him out and save the day.
And, again, besides the multiple random subplots that pop up throughout the course of the film, that is pretty much it for story. The reason that D.C. Cab is able to keep your attention is because it never stops moving. It continuously hits you over the head with so many jokes, gags and slapstick moments that by the time you realize what you just watched made little sense, the credits are rolling. And speaking of the credits, because the drivers save the day in the end (and that’s not really a spoiler), the credits roll over a funny and charming parade sequence that the city decided to hold in their honor. Each and every cabbie slowly drives through the parade, dancing and carrying on atop one of the cabs. It’s hard not to smile during this, despite it being almost aggressively corny.
I defy any comedy fan, particularly those who came of age in the 1980s to not instantly fall in love with Schumacher’s D.C. Cab. I personally can’t help but grow nostalgic when I watch this film. To this day, it’s perhaps my favorite comedy of the 80s, rivaled only by Fletch. But that’s a film for another entry. And, yes, since we are after all in Colorado, I will give it my “excellent pick to watch while high” endorsement.
Jonathan Eagle

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