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Review: CHiPs

CHiPs
03.24.2017
5 10

PLOT: After a string of armored car robberies point to the California Highway Patrol, an FBI agent (Michael Pena) goes undercover among their ranks, where he’s paired with an inept rookie (Dax Shepard).

REVIEW: It takes a sure hand to successfully mix genres. If the recipe is off, the resulting film can seem schizophrenic, and that’s certainly the case with Dax Shepard’s CHIPS. A follow-up to his own, more modest and more successful HIT & RUN, CHIPS tries to mix R-rated raunchy slapstick with high-grade action. The result is a slapdash effort that plays out like no one had any idea what kind of movie they were making from one scene to the next.

Many fans of the seventies TV show are peeved by the way that non-violent family hour has been turned into a hard-R big-screen movie, but let’s face it – “CHiPs” is “CHiPs” – meaning it was never this unassailable classic. Truth be told, the film isn’t really anything like it other than its about two highway motorcycle cops – basically an excuse for Shepard, who also wrote and directed, to stage vehicular mayhem. I’ll give Shepard this, he knows his bikes, just like HIT & RUN proved he knows his cars, and the chases are well-executed. When CHIPS is an action flick it just about works. It’s too bad that the cast has to talk because what passes for humor in this movie is puerile at best. Worst of all, it’s not funny.

CHIPS feels like a relic from the early 2000’s, with most of the jokes being focused on Michael Pena’s Ponch, who’s prone to homosexual panic and is so horny he can’t make it two hours into his shift without masturbating three times in public bathrooms. Pena can be hilarious, given the right vehicle (his recent WAR ON EVERYONE is a much better buddy-cop satire), but he’s left high and dry here by the lameness of the comedy. That it’s not PC isn’t the problem – that it’s not funny is.

By contrast, Shepard gives himself the safer part, playing his Jon Baker as a lovable goof. Given that he’s pushing forty and still a CHP rookie, the excuse is that he’s a former motocross pro whose injuries have left him unable to compete. His character is idiotic but means well, so Shepard’s not taking any chances – it might have been more interesting if each was cast against-type by flipping the personality traits. Shepard’s real-life wife, Kristen Bell, has a cameo as Jon’s ex, although the real love-interests here are played by Jessica McNamee & Rosa Salazar as fellow cops.

As the baddie, Vincent D’Onofrio seems thoroughly unaware that he’s in a comedy, grieving over his son’s heroin addiction, and eventually swearing to murder our two heroes, while also posing as a cop. His whole part seems lifted from another movie. Of the supporting cast, Isiah Whitlock Jr. fares best as Ponch’s boss, being able to flip from comedy to drama without any effort at all.

You can’t really blame D’Onofrio though, because maybe he had the right idea. When CHIPS is a comedy, its straight-up awful, with none of the gags working (the theater I sat in at the Thursday preview was dead-silent throughout). But, as an actioner it absolutely has its moments, particularly a big motorcycle chase that ends with a baddie getting decapitated. More action and less comedy would have made this a film worth watching.

Source: JoBlo.com

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