Of all the old TV shows to get a sudden Hollywood reboot, ‘CHiPs’ had to be pretty low on the list of viable contenders. Does anyone care about ‘CHiPs’ anymore? Does anyone still watch it?
I guess Dax Shepard does, and since he’s been slowly forging a directorial career rooted in driving cars, working with friends and cracking-wise, it makes sense that ‘CHiPs’ would appeal to him. Will it appeal to anyone else? Unlikely. But Dax had fun and he seems like a nice enough guy. That’s something.
In theory, ‘CHIPS’ (all letters now upgraded to capitals) exists because the success of ’21 Jump Street’ proved that there’s fun to be mined from rebooting a dead TV property if done with a hefty sense of irony, self-mockery and irreverence. ‘CHIPS’ is a silly enough brand that it could be used to explore how ridiculous those old buddy-cop clichés are. Unfortunately, that’s not really Dax Shepard’s approach as writer or director. Instead, he just wants to make a generic buddy-cop movie and uses the ‘CHIPS’ brand as a means to that end. He’s written himself a role as a former pro motorcycle driver whose many injuries have led him to a sad career as a highway patrolman. He doesn’t love the job. He’s addicted to painkillers. His ball-busting cliché of a wife (Shepard’s real wife Kristen Bell, who deserves better) might be leaving him. That’s too much to take. Things are tough for officer Jon Baker.
You know what might cure what ails this recovering adrenaline junkie sad sack? How about a buddy who is also a cop? That’s the ticket. Good news, he gets one of those in the great Michael Peña (who also deserves better) playing “Ponch” Poncherello, a guy who loves busting dirty cops almost as much as he loves banging broads. He’s a sex addict, I suppose. But he also wants to make sure that you and everyone else watching the movie is absolutely clear that he isn’t gay. That happens in many ways. ‘Cuz this guy is straight as an arrow, ladies. Granted, if you’re an older or unattractive lady, that’s almost worse than being a dude. Yes, it’s that old, tired comedy routine, and somehow it’s even more painful to sit through in this movie than most that trot out these old jokes.
Beyond all the bro-buddy bonding BS and gay panic, there’s a plot in ‘CHIPS’ somewhere. It has got something to do with Vincent D’Onofrio playing a formerly good cop who got corrupt in the hopes of saving his heroin-addict son. I think that’s what happened, anyway. I’m not sure. Storytelling is not the film’s strong suit. The point of the movie is really for Dax Shepard to cram in as many filthy sex jokes as possible, along with some boobies, some explosions, some chases, and a few extra scenes to make it clear that these dudes love ladies and certainly aren’t remotely gay. You know, the stuff of old ’80s comedies. Now, if Shepard’s movie were in some way mocking that dated brand of humor and macho fantasy, he might be onto something. He’s not, though. This is just a parade of bad ideas that only serves as a reminder of why the world has moved on from this stuff when it’s done so poorly and lazily.
The movie does have some mild charms. Shepard loves cars and motorcycles and chases between those vehicles. He stages a couple of decent budget-conscious action scenes. He’s also a fairly lovable performer, as are Kristen Bell and Michael Peña. Occasionally, their natural charisma tops the boneheaded and gross screenplay. Not often, but occasionally. I guess ‘CHIPS’ isn’t a complete waste of time. But it’s close and hopefully will bring an end to the cycle of reviving cheesy old TV series for new action comedies. As much as the ’21 Jump Street’ flicks were hilarious and the ‘A-Team’ movie was actually more entertaining than it had any right to be, those were exceptions and not the rule. For the most part, these movies are as worthless as ‘CHIPS’ and it’s about time they went away for a while, if not permanently.