Jacob Richardson | 07/06/2017
Racist, homophobic, sexist and, for the most part, unfunny, CHiPS takes an unmemorable 80’s TV show and turns it into an even more unmemorable, plotless film.
When Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Pena), FBI agent, is seconded to the Californian Highway Police to investigate a recent spate of robberies, he is paired with a rookie agent Jon Bake (Dax Shepard), an ex-X Games motorcyclist joining the force in an effort to win back his estranged wife. Dax Shepard brings us this unasked for big screen adaptation of the original TV series, attempting to update it for a modern sensibility with a more humorous take.
Unfortunately, the film doesn’t come off as smoothly as that. Shepard, who also wrote the script, hasn’t delivered anything remotely original. The plot is inconsequential to the film. We know that Vincent D’Onofrio’s Vic Brown is guilty of the crime almost immediately after witnessing it, so any element of intrigue is stripped from what would normally be a rote police thriller. The rest of the film then revolves around gaping plot holes and passive, limping motorcycle chases. It’s almost difficult to ascertain why Shepard decided to bring this to the big screen then, given the utter lack of anything resembling innovation. One must reasonably assume he was propositioning the comedy more so than the story.
But there, too, we find another problem, because CHiPS is just not funny. Its lazy, discriminatory humor doesn’t play for laughs, even ones of outrage. Shepard seems to encourage riffing on material, and gives himself and Pena room to use their comedic chops, but the two actors do nothing with the space. Instead, in a movie where we should be laughing all the time (particularly necessary when there is no story), we find ourselves engulfed in the sound of crickets, with a brief few moments of mirth thrown in. Coupled with a miscast Kristen Bell and weak, barely there performances from the supporting actors, CHiPS seems dedicated on fading into the background of 2017’s cinematic landscape.
Although at times funny, CHiPS is a decidedly lazy film, wasting the talent of its cast with aggressively discriminatory dialogue that comes across as unfunny and unearned in this plotless mess of a movie. Almost insultingly unfunny, CHiPS will have you leaving the cinema questioning why this was ever made.