UK Release Date: 24th March 2017
Runtime: 101 minutes
Director: Dax Shepard
Writer: Dax Shepard
Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Kristen Bell, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Maya Rudolph
Synopsis: A tough FBI agent is forced to work with an idealistic young highway cop when he goes undercover in an attempt to uncover corruption within highway officers in California.
After the runaway success of the Jump Street movies, it was perhaps inevitable that more remakes of similar old television shows would make their way to the big screen. The latest is CHiPs, adapted from a cheesy TV show from the 1970s and 1980s, which clearly doesn’t have the first clue what it was that made Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s films so riotously entertaining. While Lord and Miller went for postmodern comedy and an anarchic tone, writer-director-star Dax Shepard plays CHiPs as a lewd, crude mess that has no idea whether to play it light or go for edgy comedy.
Troubled FBI agent Ponch (Michael Peña) is sent on an undercover operation within the California Highway Patrol in an attempt to track down corrupt cops within the department. He is placed alongside new officer and former stunt bike champion Jon (Shepard), who has taken up a job he is hideously unqualified for in order to impress his ex-wife (Kristen Bell). Ponch and Jon promptly go about following lines of investigation that lead them to brutish officer Ray Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio), who seems to be the head of a ring of bent officers within the CHP.
Right from the start, CHiPs is witlessly offensive and hideously misjudged. It’s incredibly cheesy and silly, but also unacceptably crass – like an insult comic who also does balloon animals. Shepard seems content to deliver sweary dialogue and predictable off-colour material – hello Oscar Pistorius! – without the need for anything as trivial as plot or character to hold it all together. Shepard’s film simply ambles along from one infuriating scene to the next, with Shepard frequently wheeling out A-list comedy friends to improvise alongside him in thankless cameo appearances.
The two central performances here are baffling in how terrible they are. Shepard is just nonsensical as the goofy Jon and brings a shocking lack of empathy to everything he does. It’s sadder, though, to see Michael Peña as Ponch, who is a character forced to embody much of the script’s misogyny and homophobia. Between this and the equally crass War on Everyone, it might be best for Peña to avoid buddy cop movies for a little while. Shepard also hands his real-life wife a role that is depressing in its caricature. Women in this film are either sad widows or manipulative sex objects.
There’s also a cheap feel to CHiPs on just about every level. The action sequences, especially, look like they themselves, like the concept itself, have been ripped from the 1980s. Everything looks like we’re only a strong gust of wind away from bits of the set falling over on to the performers. The conspiracy plot, too, unfolds in dull fashion, like the work of a ten-year-old scrawling an adventure story in his homework book. We know who the corrupt cops are from almost the first scene, so there’s no mystery at all.
CHiPs is simply an unimaginative and unamusing attempt to cash-in on the nostalgic popularity of these TV adaptations. It has no wit, no sense of humour and no awareness as to why other films of its ilk have succeeded. Thankfully, given that everything about it is truly grim and depressing, CHiPs is already in the process of vanishing without a trace at cinemas. It’s only made about $15m worldwide against a $25m budget, so there’s no chance of a sequel to this dirge. At least there is some justice in the world.
Pop or Poop?
Three words: Pish and CHiPs.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.