CHiPs could be the best yet. Happy belated April Fool’s Day
If you grew up in the 70’s and 80’s, then you might be familiar with a show called Chips. It was a low stake look into the everyday lives of California Highway Patrol motorcycle officers as they cruised the freeways of Los Angeles solving crime. Probably best known for making Erik Estrada famous for his portrayal of Frank “Ponch” Poncherello, Chips was an endearing favorite of many. I know my parents enjoyed it. While I don’t remember much from the series, I do recall it being on a lot in our household when I was young. It was enjoyable enough that I wouldn’t consider changing the channel when it was on. Nostalgia being a major factor in cinema these days you just know Hollywood had to try its hand at making a Chips movie. It’s a wonder that this wasn’t attempted earlier…like you know in the 90’s. While name recognition certainly has the potential to aid in box office draws, the studio still needs to translate a show which aired its first episode in 1977 and make it interesting for modern day audiences all while keeping the original fans happy as well. It’s quite a difficult juggling act. I’m not too sure the Chips movie handles this task too well.
First, let’s get the basics out of the way. Chips the movie introduces us to two men who have just joined the California highway patrol. Jon Baker, played by Dax Shepard, is a former pro motorcyclist looking to get his life back together and recapture some past glory by joining the force. Frank Poncherello, played by Michael Pena, is an undercover FBI agent who has been assigned to uncover possible corruption within the CHP department. These two men have vastly different personalities. This unlikely duo is predictably paired together which leads to them clashing with each other and potentially compromising the FBI’s investigation.
In terms of positives, Michael Pena is indeed a bright spot. It’s tough to deny that he is a fine comedic actor. Pena’s performance might be the saving grace of this movie. Dax Shepard is ok but he’s an acquired taste. Some might like him, some might not. I wasn’t his biggest fan going in but I was able to tolerate him in this. The rest of the characters are fairly one note in here. Vincent D’Onofrio, who normally plays a fine villain, is reduced to a barely fleshed out cheap facsimile of his Kingpin character from the well done Daredevil series on Netflix. There are some funny moments in this one. Then there are also a lot of forced situations which are supposed to be funny but come across as awkward instead. Some unbelievable physics also come into play here which takes away your ability to take this film seriously despite it being a comedy.
The criminal scheme here is not fleshed out too well. It is kind of confusing really. A lot of things in this movie don’t quite make sense. For instance, in the beginning, Pena’s character has gone undercover as a getaway driver for a crew of bank robbers. Why doesn’t he bust them at the scene of the crime instead of taking all of them on a wild police car chase? What about the bad guys here? Why are they doing what they do? The story feeling rushed with motivations being unclear, along with characters who seem to randomly swap being good and bad, make for a slightly underwhelming viewing experience. This almost seems like a Super Troopers knockoff. At least that one had weed jokes. Chips unfortunately doesn’t. It’s not altogether horrible as in I liked it more than I didn’t. However, if you’re deciding whether to catch this in theaters, you might be better served saving your money and wait to rent this one on dvd.