Instant Finds: D.C. Cab
I think that sometimes it’s important to look at context when judging a film from the past. What were its contemporaries, what were the critical hits of the year, what trends were popular, what movies tapped into the public zeitgeist, what movies bombed.
In 1983, the best picture winner was Terms of Endearment. Linda Hunt won an Oscar for playing a man in The Year Of Living Dangerously. Return Of The Jedi would earn its place as the worst Star Wars movie, a title it would keep for nearly 20 years.
Those are the facts that people remember today. Those are the movies that have held up. But if you look at 1983 in terms of box office, an entirely different trend emerges; a trend of incredibly stupid films. And when I mean stupid, I mean some of the dumbest, most mind-numbingly idiotic movies of all time: Octopussy, Staying Alive, Mr. Mom, Superman III, Blue Thunder, Jaws 3-D, Porky’s II, Easy Money, Spring Break, these all just didn’t come out in 1983, there were massive hits, some of the biggest movies of the year. Mr. Mom out-grossed both Silkwood and The Outsiders!
It is in this climate that D.C. Cab was unleashed upon moviegoers, and they deemed it good enough to somehow make a profit, with the box office declaring it worse than Krull and My Tutor, but still better than Stroker Ace and Smokey & The Bandit Part III.
And you know what? Yeah, that sounds about right.
D.C. Cab stars Adam Baldwin (just wait, the cast is going to get even better) as Albert Hockenberry, a down-on-his-luck country bumpkin who moves to D.C. to work for the titular cab company owned by Harold, an army buddy of his late father. Harold agrees to help the boy out, but it soon becomes clear to Albert that D.C. Cab is barely held together. Its garage is a mess, their fares constantly skip out on paying, and the cabbies are wildest bunch of misfits and outcasts this side of Police Academy 4.
You got Tyrone (Charlie Barnett), a fast-talking hustler trying to make a buck; Buddy and Buzzy (The Barbarian Brothers), two bodybuilders who have drank one too many protein shakes; and Xavier (Paul Rodriguez), a self-styled gigolo who is more concerned with finding Mrs. Rich than his job. Gary Busy and Mr. T are also there ,and they pretty much just play themselves (figuratively).
In case you haven’t picked up on it yet, D.C. Cab has one hell of a cast. Bill Maher and Marsha Warfield (Roz from Night Court) are also here, as is Whitman Mayo from Sanford and Son. Irene Cara even shows up for a minute, playing herself (literally) and looking incredibly confused.
This cast is the only thing that rises D.C. Cab up from being forgettable 80s dreck into somewhat memorable..80s dreck. The rest of the film is strictly by-the-numbers 80s nonsense, only humorous and entertaining for how stereotypical and formulaic it is.
Of course there’s going to be a sudden influx of wealth that will help put D.C. Cab on the map. Of course there’s a musical montage featuring a song with the movie’s name as the title. Of course there’s going to be a tragically comic misunderstanding that will result in hilarious hijinks. And of course it will all come together in a wacky caper/chase that vindicates our heroes, complete with a parade (and concert by Irene Cara). By the numbers. Entirely predictable. Entirely dull.
But still, it’s entirely watchable and entertaining as well.
D.C. Cab is less a movie and more comfort food; reassuring nostalgia showcasing a cinematic story template that is rarely used today. It’s not “good” in the traditional sense. Shit, it’s not “good” in any sense. But I still found myself chuckling along with it despite its awfulness. It’s so trite, so simple, so…80s, that it’s hard not to just smile through it, even when you’re groaning at the horrible jokes and moronic plot.
If you’re a child of the 80s who missed it the first time around, or a student of the 80s who would like to see the tropes, stereotypes and plot devices of the decade in all their ugly glory, then you should probably check D.C. Cab out, they just don’t make them like this anymore (thankfully).
D.C. Cab is available to watch on Netflix Watch Instantly.