When I started this series back in November, I knew it was inevitable that I would have to talk about DC Cab. It is cited as a film that best represents the District, as opposed to Washington. It has a minor cult following, in no small part to its surprising ensemble cast. DC Cab is not a great movie – it is too uneven, and few of its jokes have aged well – but it does remain a terrific time capsule of what the city was like more than thirty years ago.
Our entry point is Albert (Adam Baldwin), a dopey kid who comes to DC from Georgia to work for a cab company owned by his father’s army buddy. No one in the company is good at their job, or take it seriously, but they sure do have a lot of hijinks along the way! The company is based in Chinatown, except there is no Pod Hotel or AT&T Store nearby. Instead, it looks like a blighted urban husk with a couple restaurants nearby (we know this because the cab drivers hurl epithets at the restaurant owners).
Like I said, many “jokes” in this film have not aged well. They are openly sexist, racist, homophobic, and crude. Then again, so are many other comedies from early 1980s. There are two things that make DC Cab interesting: its cast and its DC location. The supporting actors include Mr. T, noted right wing asshole Gary Busey, and noted left wing asshole Bill Maher. I should add that Adam Baldwin, who went on have an important role in Firefly, is also a right wing asshole. In particular, it is hilarious to see Maher/Baldwin in the same shot, since they would eventually grow ideologically apart while absolutely deserving each other.
DC has changed a lot since 1983, so you have to squint to see how the exteriors match with the city today. The easiest spots to recognize are Embassy Row, Dulles Airport, and the monuments. Many scenes take place in the Florida Avenue Grill, and only longtime DC residents will see that, yes, the exteriors of those scenes are adjacent to Cardozo High School.
DC Cab was directed by Joel Schumacher, who went on to direct Falling Down, Batman Forever, and Phone Booth. There is some of that craftsmanship in DC Cab, since Schumacher has little problem handling crowd scenes and car chases. Aside from being a problematic example of a DC movie, DC Cab is an occasionally diverting low point for almost everyone involved.
Except for Bill Maher, a terrible comedian and miserable person whose career has only gone downhill from here.