CHIPS: Not For Fans Or For Anyone Else
Wasted characters, little humor, and lackluster action scenes make CHiPs a rather bland adaptation of the famous TV series.
If you’re considering seeing CHiPS because you were a fan of the iconic TV series, DO NOT SEE THIS MOVIE. If you’re considering seeing this movie because it seems funny, you probably shouldn’t see it either. Dax Shepard, a fan of the 1970s series, CHiPS, was inspired to make a funnier version of the duo into a movie. But why not just make a raunchy comedy about motorcycle cops? Don’t bring down the reputation of a television classic!
Ponch and Baker in 2017
CHiPS opens by setting up the new backstories of the famous duo, by juxtaposing them as they go through their days leading up to their partnership. Ponch (Michael Peña) is an undercover FBI agent, perfectly regimented and cool under pressure, but his professional demeanor is often tainted by his sex addiction. Baker is an ex-motocross star clinging to his glory days and ex-wife Karen (Kristen Bell). He has suffered many injuries, making him an incompetent Opioid addict. Ponch is transferred to Los Angeles to go undercover as a CHP officer, to investigate the activity of some crooked cops on the force. Baker barely graduates CHP academy and enters the force on probation, causing him to be partnered up with Ponch.
To prove himself as a responsible officer to keep his job, Baker is overly cautious, while Ponch completely ignores him to investigate the case. Baker proves to be valuable to Ponch by picking up on key clues. In a chase after suspects who are in cohorts with the crooked cops, Baker almost catches them and saves Ponch’s life during the chase. Because of this and a bonding moment of Ponch carrying Baker’s naked body to a bath, Ponch tells Baker that he’s undercover, and they partner up on the case. They instantly discover that Ray Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio) is in charge based solely off of how intimidating he looks. It’s revealed that Kurtz runs the scheme in hopes to help his son, Reed (Justin Chatwin) overcome his drug addiction.
In no time at all, Kurtz is confronted by Baker and Ponch, but Kurtz lets them know they’ll never catch him because “he is the law.” However, when Kurtz takes Karen hostage, the duo and the rest of the force come together to find Kurtz as well as the rest of the cops that were working with him.
Revamped and Downgraded
Shepard’s primary goal was to make a raunchy comedy of the original series, and he failed miserably. There is no denying that Shepard is a hilarious actor, yet portraying Baker it was obvious that he was confined, and his performance might make you chuckle at best. Making Ponch a sex addict was completely relied on to give the movie the raunchier half, but the scenes are unoriginal and dull. There are no standout scenes or jokes in the movie, likely because comedy was forgotten in the attempt to focus on the story.
Like the rest of the movie, the story is underdeveloped. For the sake of moving the movie along there are countless moments of cookie cutter resolutions. On the upside, the dramatic moments of the film aren’t half bad thanks to D’Onofrio. The scenes where he is in control are easily the best. His intimidation creates an intensity that is exciting and makes you crave action, but unfortunately the action of the film hardly satiates the craving. With Baker as an ex-motocross star, it sets an expectation for wild stunts, but they were as mediocre and safe as the original series.
What Supporting Characters?
There was an attempt to make the two leads more complex characters by giving them each fatal flaws, but their complexity felt unnecessary and took the movie off course. But at least the two had the ability to stand on their own, the rest of the characters were there just to serve the plot. Obviously, the movie is about Baker and Ponch, but no comedy can succeed without strong supporting characters.
Adam Brody was alright as Ponch’s uptight partner, Clay Allen. The whole movie he never gets over Ponch shooting him during a stand-off, it was never funny and shooting him a second time didn’t help. Bell was basically recreating her role as Sarah Marshall, but this time her name is Karen and she’s a swim instructor. Officer Perez (Rosa Salazar) is a notable character but she was only a love interest for Baker, and was objectified for the sake of raunchy jokes (if you weren’t sure if this movie fails the Bechtel test).
Again, the only meaningful supporting character is Kurtz, and he is underutilized. Though Baker and Ponch both have their issues to give them substance, it’s nothing in comparison to Kurtz’s love for his son. When Kurtz wakes up Reed to tell him to do a job and that he runs the scheme for Reed to recover, it creates a compelling and strong scene for the film. It’s totally reliant on D’Onofrio’s ability to soften himself in that moment and show a hint of the person he is. Kurtz’s character was given something that elevated the value of the movie, something that the rest of the characters needed.
It seems rude to the movie to tell you not to see CHiPS, but there isn’t anything in this movie that can compel me to recommend it. There are funnier, more action packed, and even raunchier (if you’re into that) movies out there for you to watch. Life is short, don’t waste it with a bad movie. To CHiPS fans, even if it was only supposed to be lightly based off the series, I hope this movie doesn’t taint the name and legacy of a truly great show.
Any OG CHiPS fans? Could this be a guilty pleasure watch for someone? Let me know down below!
CHIPS was released in the US on March 24, 2017. For all international release dates see here.
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