SHOCK CINEMA
HOME PAGE
SUBSCRIPTIONS
AND BACK ISSUES
FILM REVIEW
ARCHIVE
Hundreds of Reviews from Past Issues!
AD RATES
MAGAZINE
REVIEW INDEX

An A-Z list of SC's
Print Reviews
SHOCKING
LINKS

Our Favorite Sites for Cinematic Dementia and Fringe Culture
SHOCK CINEMA
FACEBOOK PAGE
'Chirashi'
MOVIE POSTERS

A Gallery of Japanese Film Posters
SHOCK CINEMA
BLOG
MISTER KEYES
At the Flicks and Shit
SHOCK CINEMA
Film Favorites

"Some of the best
bizarre film commentary
going... with sharp, no-nonsense verdicts."
-
Manohla Dargis,
The Village Voice
 
"One of the few
review zines you
can actually read
and learn from...
You need this."
-
Joe Bob Briggs 
 
"Whenever you
see a film critic,
pick up a brick and throw it at him...
No great damage
can be done
to his head."
-
Jonas Mekas 
 

 Need additional
 information?
 E-mail us at:

 ShockCin@aol.com















WACKY TAXI [a.k.a. Pepper and his Wacky Taxi] (1972).

I know what you're wondering. Why the hell am I reviewing a warmhearted, G-rated family film in SHOCK CINEMA? Because it stars John Astin, one of my all-time favorite celebs in one of his most punishingly awful movies. Written and directed by Alex Grasshoff, the poster promises a rollicking "comedy-drama," but the laughs are MIA, while its overall message is "If you dream big, anything is possible." A more practical one would've been, "Don't have so many goddamn kids if you're broke and stupid." Astin plays Pepe "Pepper" Morales, a Mexican-American who's struggling to support his four children and pregnant wife Maria (Maria Pohji). Always brimming with half-baked get-rich schemes, Pepper abruptly walks out of his stable-but-boring blue collar "slave" job at an aluminum can company and decides to start his own one-man taxi service. He squanders his family's savings on a dilapidated old '59 Cadillac, hand-letters 'Taxi' on its door, and is soon driving about San Diego, looking for fares and having decidedly-unwacky encounters, such as stuffing his car with servicemen on shore leave and taking a distressed "lady Marine" to Tijuana for an (unmentioned) abortion. The guy can't catch a break though, whether it's constant car problems, competition from legit yellow-cab operators or difficult passengers. Plus there's brother-in-law Jaimie (Ralph James), a 4th-rate attorney who's continually worrying about how this illegal taxi business lacks any permits, inspections or insurance. Nevertheless, Pepper remains eternally, annoyingly optimistic, amidst fantasies of becoming the cab-world's Richard Branson, with a fleet of taxis and specialty foods. All of this is extraordinarily dull, and the script's idea of excitement is when Pepper's beloved taxi is stolen, he's tossed into jail for breaking into people's garages during his frantic search, goes on a lengthy bender, and attacks some innocent guy (Frank Sinatra Jr.!) in his home -- hey, that's my idea of G-rated fun for all ages! Astin tackles this unbelievably naive role with such total earnestness, you'd think he was already making plans for his evening at the Oscars. The only vaguely amusing sequence features a neurotic fare (comic-lyricist Allan Sherman, of "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" fame) who stuffs his face, gives incorrect directions (hence, their detour through a high-rise parking garage) and is running late for the airport. This creatively threadbare project also boasts sub-par TV-level production values, saccharine soundtrack tunes by jazz great Willie Ruff, plus a preposterously upbeat epilogue that proves even the most delusional, obstinate fuck-up can succeed. And if you fail, you must be an even bigger loser than Pepper. Isn't that a lovely lesson to teach kids?

© 2008 by Steven Puchalski.