CHIPS (USA/15A/100mins)
Directed by Dax Shepard. Starring Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell, Michael Pena, Adam Brody, Vincent D’Onofrio.
THE PLOT: Rookie California Highway Patrol Officer Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) joins forces with undercover FBI agent Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña) to bust a corruption ring within the CHP, and bring the crooked traffic law enforcers to justice.
THE VERDICT: Based on the TV show of the same name that ran for 6 years until 1983, ‘Chips’ deviates in tone from the light hearted drama than fans remember, and writer/director Dax Shepard struggles to keep the tone on track, and provide many laughs.
Dax Shepard leads the cast as former motorbike stunt rider Jon Baker, who is so desperate to get his wife Karen (Kristen Bell) back that he enlists to the CHP to impress her. Shepard, as with his role in 2012’s Hit and Run, has not written himself a particularly complex role, so he manages it fine. Michael Peña plays another thoroughly unpleasant character after his turn in War on Everyone last year, making Ponch a sex-addicted compulsive masturbator, who is misogynistic and homophobic, and has shot his partner, but still manages to be employed by the FBI. Elsewhere, Vincent D’Onofrio brings his regular brand of nasty as the bad guy, and Ed Begley Jr has a great cameo to the tune of Rosanna by Toto. The rest of the cast features Kristen Bell, Ryan Hansen, Adam Brody, Jessica McNamee, Justin Chatwin, Maya Rudolph and Rosa Salazar.
As well as directing, Dax Shepard penned the screenplay for ‘Chips’, and like his 2012 film Hit and Run, seems to have done it to show off his personal collection of cars, his skills on a motorbike, and have some fun with driving around on LA freeways in the name of a movie. The story swings from being a ridiculous buddy cop movie to a serious drama with no warning at all, and then spends the rest of the film swinging back and forth, never managing to settle on a coherent tone. The jokes, such as they are, use puerile humour to try and get a laugh from the audience, but the misogynistic masturbation jokes never manage to raise a smile, and the characters soon become grating. The chase scenes in the film are fun to begin with, but even these lack the gleeful, light hearted feel of the original TV show, meaning that they are ultimately unmemorable, and never as much fun as they could be.
In all, ‘Chips’ is a tonal mess, and although there are some great actors in the cast, they never truly get a chance to show what they can do. The jokes are puerile and lack sophistication on any level, and the film as a whole gets lost in offensive chaos. Even Erik Estrada’s cameo can’t fix ‘Chips’.
RATING: 2/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

  • filmbuff2011

    This reviewer has fond memories of the CHiPS TV show that ran for 139 episodes from 1977 – 1983. Cop TV shows were all the rage back then. Still, the property has surprisingly been disinterred and given the modern reboot treatment with CHIPS courtesy of US comedian Dax Shepard.

    Miami FBI agent Frank (Michael Pena) is assigned by his hard-ass boss Peterson (Isaiah Whitlock Jr) to investigate a heist and a possible link to the death of a helicopter police officer. This will involve him going undercover to reveal the villain at the California Highway Patrol or CHIPS. When he arrives in the City of Angels, he’s assigned a partner to patrol the highway with – Jon (Shepard), who is just scraping his way into the team and has a habit of putting his foot in it at the most awkward moment. Jon is just about holding his marriage to Karen (Kristen Bell) together. As they investigate, Jon and Frank clash and bicker over the most trivial things. If they’re going to find the perpetrator, then they’ll have to knuckle down, get on the road and work like a dream team. Easier said than done…

    This reviewer recalls Dax Shepard’s second film as a writer/director, Hit And Run. It was a fun chase movie with a sense of smart sense of humour. Trying to latch onto something from his childhood may not have been as smart a concept. CHiPS was a good show, but it wasn’t exactly crying out for a modern take. As is often the norm these days in Hollywood, the only way to reboot an older TV show is to turn it into a comedy (see the upcoming Baywatch, for example). The problem with CHIPS though is that it’s not really funny. The laughs are quite weak and struggle beyond crass, juvenile jokes about male genitalia that would be more at home in a Kevin Smith film. There’s a laziness to Shepard’s script which makes it feel like a bear that’s struggling to get up and go hunt for some food. In this case, hunting for better lines and better characters. Plot threads are left unexplained, like why the helicopter officer killed himself.

    The main characters can be summed up in one character trait – Jon is an accident-prone doofus, Frank likes women in yoga pants. That’s about it. That said though, Pena and Shepard make a good double act and try to push their thinly-written characters off the page – only just though. Spare a thought for the other actors though, with Vincent D’Onofrio barely registering as a one-note villain – just as well original choice Brad Pitt declined. The delightful Bell (Shepard’s offscreen wife) is given a token wife role with nothing to do but be alluring. There are some sporadic good chuckles, but nothing worthy of a bellylaugh. The tone of the film is all over the place too, throwing in some gory moments amid car chases and shoot-outs. It’s a film that goes haywire, never really deciding on what it wants to be. A cameo from original star Erik Estrada is a welcome touch, but the film is unlikely to harm memories of the TV show. The film is that forgettable and instantly disposable. CHIPS needed less of the salt and more vinegar. **

  • emerb

    “CHIPS” is a comic movie based on of the popular 1970s TV series about highway patrol officers in California which mixed raunchy comedy with high-energy stunts. It went off screen 34 years ago but has been reconfigured here by writer/director/star Dax Shepard who has given us a bolder, braver and brasher version. “CHIPS” isn’t the first attempt to revive a classic television favourite as a movie franchise (“21 Jump Street”) and it certainly won’t be the last (think “Baywatch”). The results here are mixed, it’s a pretty decent attempt,
    not bad but just not very good.

    Shepard plays Jon Baker, a former motorcycle stunt rider who has joined the CHP in a last attempt to win back the heart of his hateful estranged wife, Karen (Kristen Bell). He’s rather an oddball – studded with scars from his physical and emotional injuries, he gobbles painkillers and rain essentially paralyzes him. He’s
    also a bit dumb and socially awkward but surprisingly not so bad when it comes to detective work. His career takes a turn, however, when he’s partnered with Ponch (Michael Pena), a maverick undercover FBI agent from Miami with who is sent to go undercover as a CHP motorcycle cop to investigate a mysterious California crime ring. Ponch is dedicated but aggressive and also a sex addict who keeps shooting his partner (Adam Brody). They don’t like each other much at first but rest assured the buddy bond develops over the course of the movie. The real problem is that neither of them are fully capable of doing what their new job entails – they must capture a gang of crooked cops in the ranks of the California Highway Patrol.

    The plot here is bizarrely convoluted, whimsical and utterly nonsensical but that doesn’t matter much as it’s less about the story and more about the special effects, the stunt riding and the buddy-cop camaraderie. There’s energy and committment in the performances. Pena and Shepard are quite charming and make a good team, and the movie is at its most fun when they’re fun together. Pena impresses in particular. To date he has shined in smaller supporting comedic roles, and now he gets the chance to truly demonstrate his worth. There’s an ease to his performance, which balances nicely against Shepard’s easy–breezy character. Disappointingly we don’t get much from the women, as the few female characters (including Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell) don’t offer much beyond mere eye candy. As light entertainment goes, “CHIPS” is fairly accomplished. There are a few good laughs which are dirty and wildly inappropriate but will have you chuckling in spite of yourself. Having said that, I did find that some of these became repetitive, such as Ponch’s sex addiction and obsession with women in yoga pants or the debate about whether he is homophobic or not. As regards pacing, the story keeps moving along briskly and doesn’t overstay its welcome. For a few laughs and a chance to leave your brain at home, “CHIPS” will do just fine.

  • Martin

    Where did this movie go wrong? The jokes are bad and not funny for starters. They tried to do what 21 jump Street did so well but instead made a stupid comedy action with rude jokes that just doesn’t work. It so forgettable this movie. The only good thing about this movie is that the stunts I’m it are pretty impressive but give me an episode of the original anyday ahead of this.