R, 100 mins.
2017, R, 100 mins.
Michael Peña as Frank 'Ponch' Poncherello / Dax Shepard as Jon Baker / Jessica McNamee as Lindsey Taylor / Adam Brody as Clay Allen / Ryan Hansen as Brian Grieves / Maya Rudolph as Sgt. Hernandez / Adam Rodríguez as Shamus / Monica Padman as Becky
Written and directed by Dax Shepard
CHIPS is so infuriatingly awful in so many head spinning ways that I grew angrier just thinking about them as I endured its 100 minutes. This is a remake that, as far as I believe, no one really was clamoring for.
specifically, it's a remake of
a late 1970's/early 1980's TV series that many filmgoers today arguably haven't
watched, let alone heard of. Worst
of all, CHIPS is a "comedy" that squanders some decent talent in
front of and behind the camera in an egregiously wasteful effort that
shows not only great contempt for moviegoers, but equal amounts for those
very few diehards that still exist for the small screen program that
The CHIPS TV
series, I'm assuming, still has some devotees out there.
The Rick Rosner created show centered on the exploits of California Highway Patrol
officers (or "CHiPs") and is one of those pandering and soft pedaled
police procedurals that only its era in question could have produced.
The options to craft a remake of it for the purposes of farcical
comedy and/or satire are abundantly there, which is precisely what the
makers of the STARSKY AND HUTCH
movie remake did over a decade ago, not to mention other recent examples
like the 21 JUMP STREET series.
The central sin of Dax Shepard's approach with CHIPS (he serves
quadruple duty and star, writer, director and producer) is that it
contains not one iota of satirical self deprecating appreciation for the
TV series at all. Instead,
it's a monumentally tone deaf remake that substitutes in rampant idiotic
crudeness that Shepard sure thinks is a riot.
Someone on this planet gave this man millions of dollars to make
CHIPS, and the resulting product is a beyond shameful indictment of that
short sighted money lender.
Even more frustrating for
viewers is that CHIPS contains one of the most
needlessly convoluted and murky plots for a movie adaptation of a TV show
that I've certainly seen, especially for one that contains as much vile
humor about penises, testicles, pubic hair, bodily functions, homophobia, and anal
sex (although not in that precise order).
There's this California Highway Patrol officer, Vic (the
inexplicably cast Vincent D'Onofrio, who plays the part like he wandered
in off of the set of a Kubrick film), that has masterminded a series of
masked robberies to help him and his junkie son (Justin Chatwin).
Investigating this is an undercover Miami FBI agent (Michael Pena,
slumming in hard core here) that decides to go undercover for CHiPs as
"Ponch", who's paired for reasons never fully explained with a
new rookie partner, Jon (Shepard), a former motorcross athlete that's now
addicted to pain killers because of too many freak accidents (there's a
throwaway scene that's supposed to be hilarious explaining how this pill
popper would ever be given the green light to join law enforcement, but
it's just one of the many painfully awkward scenes in the film that
elicits more silence than laughter).
Jon, like most
hopeless greenhorns, desperately wants to impress Ponch and his superiors,
but he's such a cardinal eff-up in life and on the job that he becomes a
laughing stock. He's also
ridiculously naive, seeing as he can't tell that his ex-wife (played by
Shepard's real wife Kristen Bell) has clearly moved on with another
man...even when that man is intimately draped around her in a swimming
pool. Unfortunately, Ponch
and Jon just can't find a way to gel cohesively together as partners,
seeing as the former is essentially a dim witted drug addict and the
former is...a sexual deviant whose perverted obsessions get in the way far too often
(women in tight yoga pants are his kryptonite).
Their case against Vic does manage to break as some clues emerge
that points towards his guilt, which leads to Ponch and Jon predictably
settling their differences to go on the offensive and put this man behind
Where do I ever
begin with relaying how hopelessly wrongheaded CHIPS is?
For starters - and as mentioned - this is a horrible appropriation
of the source material. Now,
not every remake has to pitch perfectly adapt its antecedent (slavish
faithfulness is the kiss of death for many remakes), but Shepard's
mournful idea of a remake is to take a quaint series from yesteryear and
amp up the hard R-rated crudeness to off putting levels to somehow make
the once innocent material grittier and edgier.
This approach made CHIPS insufferable for me...and I'm not even a
fan of the TV series. It's
also abundantly obvious that Shepard was trying to mime the flavor and
overall approach of the 21 JUMP STREET films, but those films were able to
be amusingly raunchy comedies that had endearing characters with hearts.
There's not one soulfully relatable character in CHIPS to latch on or relate to.
Just consider the
two main "hero" characters.
Jon is a pathetic sad sack of a human being that has very few
socially redeeming qualities. Ponch is even more annoying, seeing as he's a creepy sex
addict that requires frequent stops at gas station washrooms during the
work day to masturbate his sexual frustrations away...and we're supposed
to like this character? Then
there is the repellent homophobic humor that taints this film like a
bloody stain that's hard to overlook, but Shepard believes in his heart of
hearts that it's progressive minded and riotously funny. The
film contains multiple scenes where the Jon questions Ponch's sexuality,
followed by questions regarding his acceptance of homosexuals.
This culminates in a scene that involves Ponch having to carry the
naked Jon (don't ask) into his bathtub and involves his face accidentally
coming in contact with his exposed groin.
Dreadful scenes like this grind CHIPS down to a screeching halt.
The film also
paints these male "heroes" with chauvinistic strokes that's
frankly unsettling, but somehow Shepard, again, believes it's cutting edge and darkly
amusing. All of the female
characters are essentially reduced to objectified props in the story...and
ones that are easily conquered by the "heroes."
To prove his character's heterosexuality, Shepard concocts a scene
that involves the two talking about women performing anilingus on them, which
has no business being in any adaptation of a cheesy and innocent disco era
cop show. Nearly every female
character here is either an obnoxious shrew or a sex kitten that are
perplexingly attracted to the main leads.
Shepard shameless throws in one male gay CHiPs officer to somehow
deflect these issues, but the character is such an non-entity in the film
that you want to just throw your popcorn at the screen out of sheer
I will say one good thing about CHIPS: Shepard does some visually creative things with the camera during many of the film's motorcycle chase sequences. He's not a writer/director without talent (look at his very underrated HIT AND RUN). Yet, whatever modest abilities he possesses it's all for naught because CHIPS is a bewildering misfire of unimaginable proportions. It has no idea at times what kind of film it's trying to be: At one point we have violent scenes of bullet spraying gore and murder-suicide followed later by inane moments of scatological comedy involving men's private parts touching one another while hugging in a locker room. CHIPS is miserably all over the proverbial map, and Shepard's inclination to raw up the old TV series with juvenile vulgarity is off-putting, to say the least. While watching this film you're forced to ask whether Shepard has even watched an episode of the semi-classic show that inspired it...or whether he even cared in the slightest about a passably decent finished product.