When you take a script that banks entirely on juvenile humor, mix it with the worst casting since John Wayne played Genghis Khan and top it off with the work of a director who is equally inept at staging humor and action, then all that can be said is sometimes “CHIPS” happens.
Dax Shepard puts himself in prime contention for three Razzies as he wrote, directed and stars in this film based on the popular 1970s and 1980s TV series. If only one of his efforts would have shown any signs of the talent Shepard has revealed in past work, “CHIPs” would have risen from abysmal to merely awful. He misses the mark with all three.
First, the writing. The original TV series was no great work of art, but at least it was a fun mix of chase scenes and people stories. The show found a following because of its innocent look at good guys and bad guys. The film is an unimaginative tale of a Miami-based FBI agent, Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña), sent undercover with the California Highway Patrol to look for crooked cops. He’s teamed with Jon Baker (Shepard), a rookie who has great skills on a motorcycle but little else going for him.
Of course, Ponch answers to a boss who spends most of his time screaming at the top of his lungs, like so many other stereotype bosses in movies. Just the first of many examples of the lack of originality Shepard shows in his writing.
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The biggest problem is that Shepard constantly gives into one of the weakest writing gimmicks: jokes about bodily functions. Ever since a fart on the playground generated giggles, these kind of jokes have been used to generate a few laughs. It morphs into an endless stream of jokes about being homophobic, the treatment of women (especially those in power) as nothing more than sex objects and a relentless string of jokes about Ponch’s passion for masturbation.
Go ahead, giggle.
Shepard takes this road kill of a script and tries to give it life through casting that is the biggest mystery in the movie. He’s designed the movie to be an inane and raunchy comedy, but he puts the always serious Vincent D’Onofrio at the center of the action. It makes as much sense as the one officer who looks to be older than the pyramids.
There’s nothing wrong with the action sequences, but there’s nothing right with them either. It’s never like the “Fast and Furious” movies where there is a sense of the speed and danger. There’s just a lot of footage of the officers cruising around Los Angeles streets, stopping only long enough for product placement moments at Arby’s, Tommy’s and Pinks.
This movie is so bad it should have had product placement for the American Dairy Association. It is definitely one big pile of cow “CHIPS.”
And, having the pair be members of the Highway Patrol ends up being a wasted plot point because they spend half the movie ditching the familiar motorcycles and uniforms. At least the California Highway Patrol will have a batter opportunity distancing themselves from this cinematic answer to a 100-car pileup because of the mid-film change.
The final flat tire is the performances by Shepard and Peña. Both are talented performers, but you would never know it from this movie. Peña can hide behind just being a hired hand. But even if Shepard tries to blame the writer or director, he’s still committed a film felony.