"CHIPS": Movie Review
Dax Shepard says he’s a fan of the original CHiPs television series from the late 70s/early 80s. Watching the big-screen version, which he wrote and directed, you may find that difficult to believe. Aside from the presence of motorcycles and the characters John and Ponch, you’ll be hard-pressed to find anything else linking the two. More importantly, though, CHIPS (the movie) comes off as little more than a mindless, hard-R spoof of the California Highway Patrol, as if Shepard just wanted to make a raunchy motorcycle film and cash in on the name recognition.
With a needlessly convoluted (and at times indecipherable) plot and more puerile behavior than a bunch of 13-year-olds at a sleepover, CHIPS is merely the latest in the seemingly endless string of stupid movies that rely on penis jokes and homophobia to “entertain”. It’s a movie that a high school dropout could have written in his sleep, and it completely undoes all the promise that writer/director Shepard showed with his feature film debut, 2012’s Hit and Run.
Shepard stars as John Baker (sincere apologies to Larry Wilcox are in order), a naive screw-up trying to save his marriage to the philandering Karen (Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell). To try to win her back, he tries out for CHP and barely makes it in. He then gets teamed-up with Frank “Ponch” Poncharello (Michael Pena), an undercover FBI agent from Miami inexplicably sent to LA to weed out a bunch of crooked cops in the department.
Baker’s an idiot who can’t shoot straight, who throws up when he smells cat litter, and who knows more about motorcycles than the entire Ducati household. Ponch is a quick-tempered jackass who has a fetish for women in yoga pants and who never met a bureau regulation he couldn’t ignore. And these two guys are the heroes.
CHIPS is populated by more horribly unlikable people than any movie in recent memory, and they do nothing but spend the entire movie yelling at each other, getting on each other’s nerves, and/or making asinine, raunchy jokes.
The lone exception in all this is Vincent D’Onofrio as the head honcho of the bad guys, but his solid performance is surrounded by such idiocy from his castmates that he ends up just seeming woefully out of place.
As laughable as Shepard’s script is, his work in the director’s chair may be even more lazy. As much as he loves riding a motorcycle, he clearly loves strapping a Go-Pro to its handlebars and shouting, “Action!” even more. Apparently that’s the only way Shepard thought he could convey exactly how speedy motorcycles actually are, but it gets old after the third or fourth time. By the fifteenth or sixteenth, you’re ready to knock him off the bike yourself and crash it into a tree.
From its start, and straight through to the finish that sometimes you feel is never going to come, CHIPS is nothing but an exercise in idiocy and half-hearted filmmaking, and despite a cameo at the end, it’s hard to believe that anyone who had a part in the original series (much less the movie-going public in general) would find anything worthwhile about it.