Lowbrow comedies can generally scrape by on star appeal. Fortunately for CHIPS – a big screen resurrection of the cheesy ’70s cop series that revolved around a pair of California Highway Patrol officers – there’s a good deal of audience goodwill for the dependable Michael Peña and the rangy Dax Shepard.
This mismatched pair are thrown together when Shepard’s pro-biker Jon Baker joins the force to win back his estranged wife (Kristen Bell), and Peña’s FBI agent Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello goes undercover to bust crooked cops within the CHP ranks. These two are the kind of cops you call the cops on – Ponch is a sex addict for whom a woman in yoga pants is Kryptonite, and Jon is the walking wounded, who chews painkillers like M&Ms and recoils in horror from cat litter. Vincent D’Onofrio is the token villain, who’s trying to sell a stolen artwork to help get his son off heroin, or something.
That’s pretty much the extent of the plot (written by Shepard, who also directs), which aside from the straight man/doofus double act and a few freeway chases and smashes is far removed from the source material.
At least CHIPS doesn’t aim high. Indeed, a majority of the gags are below the belt and depend on homoerotic locker room shenanigans and buddy cop bromance to generate laughs – which they sometimes do. But again, it’s thanks to the geniality of Shepard and Peña that some of them work at all.
Shepard is no slouch behind the camera, having previously helmed car chase flick Hit and Run (2012). He knows how to stage a decent action scene (and ride a motorcycle), even if his screenwriting skills are of the “Ow my balls!” variety – where Peña’s face inevitably winds up at one point. This shit never happened to Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada!
The TV series could just as easily have been reimagined as a tough Lethal Weapon-style action film, but by opting for the dumb raunchy comedy route, CHIPS is as tasteless and disposable as a serve of fast food fries.
In cinemas: April 6, 2017
Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Vincent D’Onofrio
Directed by: Dax Shepard
Check out our interview with the CHIPS team.