It’s no T. J. Hooker.
CHIPS (2017): 5 out of 10: is an action comedy film based on the 1970s television series of the same name. The movie, directed by Dax Shepard, puts a modern, comedic twist on the classic buddy-cop genre.
In the film, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) is under scrutiny due to suspected corruption within its ranks. In response, the FBI sends in one of their agents, Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña), undercover to infiltrate the CHP and sniff out the corrupt officers. Frank is a skilled and professional agent but has his own issues, especially when it comes to dealing with his newfound responsibilities as a motorcycle cop.
On the other hand, Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), a former professional motorbiker turned rookie cop, is trying to navigate his new career and mend his marriage. Despite his commitment and heart, Jon is seen as a bit of a screw-up and struggles to find his footing in the field.
Together, Ponch and Jon must work as partners despite their different personalities and attitudes. Their mission, to expose the corrupt cops, soon unfolds into a series of comedic misadventures, action-packed sequences, and unexpectedly dangerous situations.
CHIPS combines elements of action, comedy, and a bit of drama.
The Good: Well, there’re some laughs, the soundtracks superb, and the acting is good as well. Or at the very least CHIPS has a very good cast. Vincent D’Onofrio does an excellent job as the villain and Michael Pena actually is pretty good in this (when he is not talking to Dax) which surprised me. And while I have a few issues with writer, director, star Dax Shepard (see below) he at least had the decency to put his wife in the movie (Kristen Bell).
From a plot point of view CHIPS has a lot in common with Wrath of Man. (I saw them back to back and two films with the same plot could not be more different.) In many ways CHIPS is almost a more hardcore story. We have scenes where a closeted gay man commits suicide by leaping from a police helicopter to save the life of his lover being held at gunpoint. Wrath of Man gets dark but in reality the plot of CHIPS at least is right there step by step.
There is a standout scene where a cop goes to arrest somebody puts the hands behind the person’s back pretend to put handcuffs on them but actually hands them a handgun. CHIPS shows soem very good directorial choices and while the action scenes will not be mistaken for Michael Bay (or Guy Ritchie for that matter) they are overall competent and a step above many of its peers.
The Bad: Pull up a chair. We may be a while.
CHIPS thinks its audience is stupid. (Not the worst assumption but still). It is one of those movies that has a plain as day plot point (shows Chekhov’s gun) at twenty minutes in. Resolves the plot point (fires Chekhov’s gun) at thirty five minutes in. But, for some reason, feels the need to show a flashback of the scene we literally just saw fifteen minutes ago as if they were worried some of the audience was out on a bathroom break.
There is a plot point where Dax Shepard decides that their uniforms look stupid and he gets himself and Michael Peña matching blue leather jumpsuits. The jumpsuits look ridiculous. There had to have been a version of the script where they wear these silly outfits and get mocked? Yes? As it is, in the final cut, apparently both the characters and the film think the blue jumpsuits are just rad. I have photo evidence so you can judge below.
There is a plot point where one of the bad guys is decapitated. They apparently cannot identify him. Even though A: They certainly should know who he is for reasons I am withholding for spoiler issues. B: They have his head and the rest of his body. I mean fingerprints and facial ID are a thing in this universe? You hardly have to call the team at the Jeffersonian on this one.
There is a big mystery of the identity of a character whose nickname is LT. Unless there is a 6′ 3″ sixty year old black man wearing a NY Giant’s jersey just out of frame I am pretty sure that would refer to the lieutenant.
CHIPS also leaves a lot of potential humor on the table. At one point the bad guy kidnaps Dax’s wife who has sold his house while he was in the hospital, openly cuckolded him, and laughed at his dreams. They really could have gone with a Ruthless People plot line here, a missed opportunity
The Ugly: There are some films that can get away with gay panic humor. Let’s see we have Planes Trains and Automobiles….Okay I am drawing a blank here. Planes, Trains and Automobiles gets away with it because it was only one scene, it was in character, it was 1987, and it starred John Candy and Steve Martin not Dax Shepard and Michael Peña. You know what is funny about two dicks touching by accident? If you do please send notes to Dax Shepard because he apparently does not.
Despite all my nitpicking above I almost recommended CHIPS. I laughed, there is occasional nudity and orange fireballs two hallmarks of great filmmaking. Unfortantly, at various points in the film, all action stops so Dax Shepard and Michael Peña can talk to each other. They sound like two twelve year old boys that just discovered PornHub. They spend one three minute scene just talking about eating ass. And scriptwriter Dax Shepard was so pleased with the scene he does a callback to it at the end of the film.
In Conclusion: With the commercial and critical success of 21 Jump Street it is no surprise others in Hollywood decided to jump on the raunchy versions of nostalgia based shows bandwagon. As properties go CHIPS is not a bad one. Certainly makes more sense than a Dark Shadows or Dukes of Hazard film treatment.
Either way The Fugitive can rest easy as it is still the best TV to movie adaptation. (The worst is a much more crowded field but Wild Wild West is certainly somewhere there at the bottom).
I don’t have a dog in this fight as I never watched CHiPs as a kid. (More of a Battlestar Galactica household.) Still I really wonder who this movie is for? I have a feeling it is for Dax Shepard to show off his considerable motorcycle riding skills and gorgeous wife. To bad he did not use the opportunity show off his wit.