CHiPs review

For those of you who were born after 1970, CHiPs was an American TV series that ran from 1977 to 1983 on NBC. It focused on the day-to-day lives of two California Highway Patrol motorcycle cops – Jon Baker, who was played by Larry Wilcox, and Erik Estrada as Frank "Ponch" Poncherello. CHiPs was popular and fun but cheesy in the much same vein as The A-Team or Starsky and Hutch. The show was light action with a touch of comedy – while there was a lot of stuntwork and crashes, there was little violence and the guys never once drew their guns.

This film is not that show.

For a start, Ponch – played here by the usually reliable Michael Peña – is not the real Frank Poncherello. He's actually a Miami-based FBI agent named Castillo, who is sent undervocer to LA as a CHP officer to investigate a spate of armed car heists. He's partnered with rookie Jon Baker (Dax Shepard, who also wrote and directed) – an injury-prone former motorcycle champion who wants to save his failing marriage (to Shepard's real-life wife, Kristen bell) by becoming a highway patrol officer, barely passing the entrance exam to become the oldest rookie on the force. As with most buddy-cop premises, the pair are like chalk and cheese and really don't get along at first, but eventually form a grudging respect for each other.

The biggest problem with the film is that, for a comedy, it lacks any substantial laughs. It seems to have gone first and foremost for the action, and on that front it does well enough – although after a while the interminable explosions (why do American vehicles blow up so easily?) become a bit monotonous. There is also an incredible amount of violence – people being shot, blown up, decapitated and even having their fingers chopped off. The film seems to be trying to be as far away form the TV show it's based on as it can get.

CHiPs has also gone for as much raunchy humour as it can, which gets pretty tiresome after the first few minutes. It's pretty misogynistic – there are breasts galore, and Ponch lusts after every spandex-clad female butt he sees (gloing as far as having to have "rest stops" while on patrol so that he can relieve his tension) – and homophobic to boot. There are constant references to anal-oral sex (or "eating ass) as they fondly refer to it) and it just comes across as gross and unnecessary.

It's surprising to see a quality cast such as this wasted with this fairly poor material – the likes of Peña, Bell (who seems to be in the film simply to show off her cleavage), D'Onofrio and Kaczmarek deserve so much better. Shepard makes a decent fist of directing, but the script is all over the place and could have done with a few more rewrites. And the leads simply lack any real chemistry, which is vital for a any buddy-cop film or TV series. It would have been much more fun if the film had taken a lighter tone – maybe in the same vein as The Brady Bunch Movie did back in the 1990s. There is a cameo in the film from the TV show star Erik Estrada, but his costar Larry Wilcox is notable in his absence. After word gets out, audiences may well be absent too.

chips 2017 movie embed

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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