By Jack Dignan
Originally Published on Salty Popcorn - You Can Find Several Other Reviews By Jack Dignan Here As Well
There’s a line in R.E.M.’s iconic 1987 hit song that goes ‘it’s the end of the world as we know it,’ and this line, thirty years later, continuously sprung to mind while watching CHIPS. Except there’s just one difference. In the song, that line is followed up by ‘and I feel fine,’ however when watching CHIPS I certainly did not feel fine. This one hurt to watch. Actor and comedian Dax Shepard returns to the director’s chair for his third feature film, and while I haven’t seen nor intend to see any of his previous films (maybe I’ll give HIT AND RUN a shot just for a dreadlocked Bradley Cooper), I’d honestly be surprised if any of them are any worse than CHIPS. Fuck CHIPS. Fuck everything about it.
Based on the long lasting 1977 show of the same name, CHIPS follows the story of two California Highway Patrol Officers, Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) and Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña). Jon was once a famed motorcycle stunt rider, driving from competition to competition and gaining a substantial number of injuries along the way. It’s a career he’s been forced to put behind him. Instead, he chooses to take on a job as a Highway Patrol Officer, hoping to spark some romantic interest back into his wife of many years, Karen (real-life wife Kristen Bell). His daring approach makes him the oldest rookie in history, and it’s on his first assignment where he is to team up with fellow newbie, Ponch.
What Jon doesn’t realise is that Ponch is secretly an undercover cop sent by the feds to investigate a heist gone wrong. The culprits are believed to be working within the Highway Patrol, and it’s up to Ponch to play along until he’s discovered what’s really going on. Jon’s inexperience and Ponch’s self-superiority clash. It doesn’t take long before the two of them become quick enemies, but if Ponch is to solve the case, he’s going to need to turn their relationship around fast and start working with Jon. You know where this is going, right? Good. Oh, and for unknown reasons, and much like RINGS earlier this year, Vincent D’Onofiro is in this film… somehow.
Despite having six seasons of material to draw from, CHIPS, from what I hear, instead uses the basic premise of that show and manipulates it into a hard R comedy with little resemblance of what came before. The original show, so the internet tells me, is a family-friendly cop show. This new rendition is far from it. Gross out comedy, excessive nudity and homophobic jokes are aplenty. In case you aren’t already sold on just how classy this movie is, its main reoccurring gag involves several discussions on the current state of ass eating in modern society. God, it pains me to describe that as a gag. A gag implies there’s actually humour behind it, something that’s entirety absent in a film as remarkably incompetent as this one.
CHIPS honestly feels like a disgrace to all that is good in the world. The screenplay seems to have been written by a horny teenager, writing out all his wildest fantasies. It’s trash. I want to believe that Dax Shepard is as talented and funny as people make him out to be, but everything I’ve seen from him just goes to prove the exact opposite. The only funny thing about him is wife, Kristen Bell, who’s an adorable and hysterical comedic force who never fails to delight. Her character in this movie is utter dog shit, a rare feat for Bell, yet she’s not what’s wrong with this film. Outside of cheating on real-life husband Dax Shepard’s character, her character is given the absolute bare minimum to do, almost to the point where you could remove her from the movie entirely without consequence. I mean, it would shorten the third act severely, but is that really a bad thing?
On that note though, can we discuss the lead actors for a second? Because goddamn. Michael Peña is a national treasure. That man can bloody act, whether it’s in more comedic roles, such as his scene-stealing sidekick in ANT-MAN, or more dramatic characters, including FURY and END OF WATCH. He’s an actor of immense talent and range, diversifying his film career with each new role. 2017, however, has not been his year. He started out poorly with the Australian release of the god-awful COLLATERAL BEAUTY, which he wasn’t actually bad in, and following that up with CHIPS. His character here, as shallow and uninteresting as he is, receives just one character trait, and that is his obsession with women. Every time he so much as glances at a woman, it’s not too long before he finds himself in a public bathroom masturbating. Yeah.
Peña’s on-screen relationship with Shepard is about as forced as any on-screen relationship can be. The two share very little chemistry, and a lacking screenplay undercuts what chemistry they do manage to find. Their relationship is rocky. The two have almost nothing in common with one another, and consequently clash because of that. With little to no comedic balance, and an abundance of stretched out jokes, their so-called ‘bonding’ time becomes more of a nuisance. Watching the two come together is painful, as it’s just so forced and unnatural. Once they do click, it comes out of nowhere; serving as nothing more than sheer plot convenience. These actors deserve better than this. They don’t deserve such an abhorring movie.
The history of cinema dates back a great number of years. My experience with the art has spanned but a couple decades. Throughout my findings, it’s always quite the experience watching a truly terrible movie. Not a particularly good experience, but certainly an experience. CHIPS is a rare find. It’s a film that’s inexcusably bad, upsetting every fiber of my body throughout its 100-minute runtime. The actors try to make the material work, and that’s what gains this film an extra half star rating more than it probably deserves, but please, for the love of god, don’t go see this monstrosity of a movie.
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