Dr. Cabbie does something interesting. It takes a rather serious subject — the fact that immigrants bring vital skills to Canada that are cruelly wasted — and milks the issue for its comic possibilities.
It does so in a cheeky and charming way and, although Dr. Cabbie is clunky in places, it mostly works.
Much credit resides with the star, Vinay Virmani, who came up with the story and co-wrote the screenplay.
Virmani plays Deepak, who immediately upon graduating from medical school in India, packs up his mom and moves to Toronto to stay with Uncle Vijay (who actually lives in Mississauga) with the expectation of starting a medical practice in the so-called “land of opportunity.”
Reality and disillusion quickly set in when it becomes clear the door is firmly closed and Deepak soon finds himself slumming it as a cabbie, along with a lot of overqualified people from other parts of the world.
Determined to carry on, Deepak starts treating patients literally in the back seat of his taxi, doling out good advice and prescriptions to a variety of fares.
Sure it’s outlandish, possibly even criminal. But Dr. Cabbie also manages to be lighthearted, amusing and occasionally heartwarming.
With his handsome features and soulful eyes, Virmani is a natural leading man, exuding a sort of everyman quality that endears him to an audience and draws them into his character’s plight.
The Big Bang Theory star Kunal Nayyar gets a chance to play against type as Deepak’s buddy and roommate, Tony, a fast-talking lounge lizard. It’s not a particularly sympathetic or even well-written role but Nayyar gets some of the film’s biggest laughs with his salty language.
Uncle Vijay, on the other hand, is a better conceived role, though it borders on stereotype and Rizwan Manji is both gauche and funny as a man caught between two cultures. A nice surprise is Mircea Monroe as Uncle Vijay’s blond Western wife, Rani. The script could have made her a real bimbo but instead allows her to be a voice of wisdom and Monroe plays her appealingly.
Director Jean-Francois Pouliot makes Toronto look lively and fetching and paces the story well and, of course, there’s a great Bollywood-style dance scene that doesn’t last nearly long enough.
But it’s the script that falters at times, trying to do too much with too many characters, including a side plot about a mayoral candidate who is a rival for the affections of Deepak’s love interest, Natalie (Adrianne Palicki), and a closing courtroom scene that’s well-intentioned but clumsy.
Still, with a host of appealing characters, snappy dialogue and an issue at its heart that will resonate with audiences, Dr. Cabbie provides a pleasingly comical cinematic ride.