Written and Directed by Dax Shepard.
Starring Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Jessica McNamee, Kristen Bell, Ryan Hansen, Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, Maya Rudolph, Ben Falcone, Justin Chatwin, Rosa Salazar, Isiah Whitlock Jr., and Jane Kaczmarek.
A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops.
CHIPS opens with a message explaining to viewers that the actual California Highway Patrol is not associated with this reboot of the semi-popular television series (it ran throughout the 70s and 80s), and to be honest, why would they want to? This comedy is straight-up lowest common denominator trash that is agonizing torture to sit through for 100 minutes. Dax Shepard is responsible for producing, writing, directing, and starring (as Jon Baker) in this new take on the property, leaving audiences with the question of how someone can be so awful at so many aspects of filmmaking, yet somehow have a job in the field.
The amount of homophobia radiating from the jokes (a term I use extremely loosely) far exceeds levels where it can be taken as a one-off harmless joke. Not only are there multiple moments of Ponch (Michael Pena) expressing disgust or homophobic tendencies, the script actually goes further to defend itself as not being offensive or homophobic. Jon and Ponch engage in discussion about the true definition of homophobia in a terrible attempt at either justifying the sophomoric humor or giving the dialogue a thought-provoking jolt. The most important part is that none of it is ever funny.
Shepard is clearly aiming for the tried-and-true buddy cop routine (Jon and Ponch both have their strengths and weaknesses, that over the course of the film they begin to help each other out with as they go from loathing being partnered together to bonding into a cohesive unit), except again, there isn’t really a single standout scene of comedic brilliance. There’s definitely a chuckle to be had here and there (Dax Shepard even looks naturally dimwitted to go along with his character’s many shortcomings), such as Jon asking Ponch if the iPhone recovery app he is using to locate a suspect is actually a secret FBI program, but no true sidesplitting sequences. Unless of course someone’s mouth inadvertently touching pubic hair meets your criteria for comedy.
As a sort of backhanded compliment, I will admit that both Jon and Ponch are totally ridiculous characters with distinct personality traits that juxtapose one another. Ponch is a sex addict with a weakness for women in yoga pants and constantly gets involved in sexting shenanigans (unfortunately, it’s never very funny and reeks of more lazy humor), while Jon is a washed up motocross star clinging to his wife (played by Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell) that he delusionally believes still loves him, and totally isn’t fucking another guy despite giving “swimming instructions” to another man in their luxurious home pool. Of course, CHIPS is unable to do anything interesting with this dichotomy, settling for sordid discussions about how partners eating each other’s asses is now normal sexual behavior between two consenting adults.
Honestly, the more I write about CHIPS, I begin to feel like I am reviewing a porno. Alas, I am not. The script simply relies on sexual humor and dialogue that much, which would not be a problem if the things happening on-screen or words being said were actually eliciting reactions. My knowledge on the original series is limited (apparently, it was the polar opposite of raunchy and family-friendly to the point where the duo’s guns were never even used), but Shepard might have gone a few notches too high on the slimy scale adapting the show to a modern comedy climate.
I suppose I should also mention that there is a plot (something to do with an inside job robbing armored cars), and just like everything else in the movie, it’s never entertaining. The plot is so obvious and predictable it doesn’t even try hiding who the villain is, which actually might have been able to work on a subversive level of filmmaking, but not in the clueless hands of Shepard. Surprisingly, the one thing his direction is efficient at is staging car and motorcycle chases throughout Los Angeles, which don’t overuse quick cuts or ever feel hard to follow. He may not understand how explosions work (I’m fairly certain two cars simply colliding don’t cause fireworks), but at the very least those brief fleeting moments offer a smidge of excitement.
CHIPS is a bad movie, there’s no other way to put it. It’s not fun, it’s rarely ever exciting, never intelligent, is perfectly content with being as lowbrow as possible, and worst of all seemingly wants to justify homophobia. The biggest crime is that such a talented cast of familiar comedic faces has gone to waste, unsuccessful at offering laughs. If it were physically possible, I would give the movie a ticket for being garbage and wasting 100 minutes of my life.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★ ★