Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Crude Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity, Pervasive Language, some Violence and Drug Use
Directed by: Dax Shepard
Written by: Dax Shepard
(based on the TV series CHIPS by Rick Rosner)
Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Vincent D’Onofrio, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Adam Brody, Rosa Salazar, Kristen Bell & Jessica McNamee
After both JUMP STREET films banked at the box office, Hollywood seemed to have found an untapped niche: hard R-rated comedy versions of old TV series. After all, Hollywood has been rebooting small shows for the big screen for decades…but they never decided to invigorate these big budget reboots with raunchy material and R-rated sensibilities. However, studios may want to rethink its strategy…because two R-rated comedy remakes of TV shows have hit this year and both have underperformed. Unless BAYWATCH is a total failure from beginning to end, I cannot imagine it being the lesser of 2017’s two TV remakes. By every conceivable measure, CHIPS is woefully lame.
When corrupt cops begin running amok in the California Highway Patrol (a.k.a. CHP), undercover FBI agent Frank Ponch (Michael Pena) is on the case. However, Ponch encounters immediate trouble in being paired with do-gooder rookie Jon Baker (Dax Shepard). Jon is woefully underqualified for his job and frequently reads a bit too deeply into things. Still, the mismatched partners begin to get to the bottom of their case and find a dysfunctional friendship developing between them. Basically, this is a generic buddy-cop comedy that frequently bores the viewer and suffers from abrupt tonal shifts. Also, there are just enough chuckles to build a deceptively funny trailer.
I haven’t seen all of Dax Shepard’s output, but he’s starred in a couple of comedies that I would consider to be woefully underrated (e.g. WITHOUT A PADDLE and LET’S GO TO PRISON). I hoped that I might feel the same way about CHIPS when I rented this film, because this thing has taken a severe beating from critics/audiences and is already being called one of the worst films of 2017 by certain websites. Unfortunately, CHIPS deserves every bit of negative feedback it’s received. The film is inept in delivering laughs or a compelling story. The jokes don’t rise above the levels of occasionally referencing ass-to-mouth (in jokes that seem to rip off CLERKS II from over a decade earlier) and attempt to poorly mimic other better comedies (mostly 21 JUMP STREET and 22 JUMP STREET). CHIPS isn’t very funny, other than a handful of chuckles that have already been revealed in the trailer.
To further complicate the film’s many problems, Shepard’s R-rated CHIPS reboot doesn’t treat itself as pure comedy the whole way through, because things get needlessly dark and the material is frequently played with a mind-bogglingly serious tone. The introduction of the Vincent D’Onofrio’s villain has a cop committing suicide in order to save his hostage boyfriend. Hilarious? This entire scene seems like cheap shock value to make us loathe the villain. However, the usually talented D’Onofrio is phoning it in, so I felt nothing other than sheer boredom when his baddie was on the screen. The finale also sees a showdown that’s mostly uneventful and seems to blatantly copy countless other buddy cop flicks (including a gore gag that’s a toned-down version of 21 JUMP STREET’s most hilariously twisted moment).
As the two mismatched cops, Dax Shepard and Michael Pena are dull. The two have next to no chemistry together in scenes and seem to be woodenly reciting jokes, which weren’t that funny to begin with. Shepard’s Jon has a lame running gag about being prone to vomiting from house smells and it’s just as stupid as it sounds. Also, Michael Pena’s Ponch is a sex addict, so I’m guessing you can imagine from whom most of the film’s graphic nudity and sex humor arrives. Pena’s character’s arc seems like a lesser version of Will Ferrell’s occasionally funny Chazz from BLADES OF GLORY. The rest of the cast members are completely forgettable, with Kristen Bell serving as Jon’s bitchy wife, Rosa Salazar being a half-hearted love interest, and Maya Rudolph and David Koechner popping in for all-too-brief cameos.
CHIPS is a crappy comedy and an even worse buddy-cop mystery. It speaks volumes that half of this film is dedicated to a solving clue that turns out to be a cheap joke. The tone frequently gets too dark and straight-faced for its own good, while the comedy aspect feels dusty and poorly imitates better jokes from far better movies. There are a couple of well-directed motorcycle chases and two minutes worth of chuckles. However, CHIPS remains a woefully unfunny, boring, and audience-insulting piece of non-entertainment.