For better of worse, remakes are now a common feature in the Hollywood landscape, and when it comes to the television remakes, the good ones flirt with convention and flip the original genres on their heads. 21 Jump Street, for example, took a serious teen crime series and turned it into a comedy, and the upcoming Baywatch film has done the same. And so too has CHIPS, starring Dax Shepard and Michael Peña.
I’m not going to lie. CHIPS is not a good movie. It just isn’t. But it is a fun movie… and surely there’s merit to be had in having a few laughs and a good time. Therefore, I am not going to be too harsh on it, but rather generous in my reprisal. The concluding 6 out of 10 might seem like a poor rating, but I assure you, it’s a high 6.
What Shepard (writer, director, producer) and Peña (executive producer) have come up with is a high-spirited reimagining of a classic cop show that carries the concept forward but replaces the melodrama with lowbrow comedy. There is no doubt that the movie often misses the mark, and yet when the comedy works, it works really well.
With Shepard assuming the character of Jon Baker (formerly played by Larry Wilcox) and Peña taking on the Poncho role (previously portrayed by Erik Estrada), the film begins with a brief set-up to give their characters individual backstories. The oldest rookie on the force, Baker has signed up in order to impress his unfaithful wife (Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell), while Poncho is a Miami-based FBI agent assigned to go undercover in the California Highway Patrol unit to investigate a series of brazen robberies. In typical form, their partnership starts on rocky ground and it is only when they uncover a rotten cop amongst their peers that they align and become a team to be reckoned with.
CHIPS is a ludicrous action-adventure that tows a wearisome line while delivering shoot-outs, explosions and high-speed chases. There is nothing here that we haven’t seen before, and many unforgiving movie goers will clock it up as a run-of-the-mill buddy cop comedy with a puerile agenda, however I would encourage people to keep that factor in mind when approaching the film and let the frivolity do its work.
Shepard’s script is smarter than it should be, and he has structured the comedy well. Most of the gags benefit from clever placement throughout the plot, which has them recurring at later points in the story. This offers the viewer mischievous pay-offs during the proceedings that help to distract from many of the movie’s shortcomings. It’s easy to forgive a laborious narrative when we’re given enough giggles to hold out attention, and predictable action is excused when it’s heightened beyond the realms of possibility. In fact, you can almost see Shepard’s tongue protruding through his cheek as fireballs and bullets fly around him.
Other notable cast members include Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, Rosa Salazar and Jane Kaczmarek, with unnecessary bit roles from the likes of Ed Begley Jr., David Koechner and Ben Falcone. It’s a none-to-impressive supporting ensemble with D’Onofrio leading the pack with a phoned-in performance that should have bore more weight. Nevertheless, the entertainment value lies squarely on the shoulders of Shepard and Peña and they keep the film afloat.
Expect very little from CHIPS and you might get a lot. Expect a lot and you’re going to be sorely disappointed. I recommend that you let your inner-child (or perhaps teen) out to play and go along with the lunacy. There are plenty of laughs to be had if you get on its wave length, and you might just have a lot of fun.
THE REEL SCORE: 6/10