From 1977 to 1983 California Highway Patrol officers Jon Baker and "Ponch" Poncherello kept the highways and byways of Los Angeles safe with a mix of motorcycles, Brut cologne and wholesome machismo. “CHiPS” was a big TV hit and is now a big screen movie starring Michael Peña and Dax Shepard as unorthodox motorcycles cops. The Brut and the wholesomeness are gone in this raunchy update but the motorcycles and machismo survived.
Shepard, who also wrote and directed, stars as Jon Baker, a free spirited ex-motorcycle daredevil. His marriage is on the rocks, but he hopes if he becomes a police officer his wife will fall back in love with him.
Baker is teamed up with a seasoned FBI agent working undercover as Frank 'Ponch' Poncherello (Peña). Seems the feds needed two outsiders to infiltrate the California Highway Patrol and bust some dirty cops who robbed 12 million dollars in a daring daylight robbery.
The unlikely duo don’t hit it off right away, but Baker’s skills on the hog and Ponch’s experience make them an effective, if untraditional team. Cue the chase scenes and sex jokes.
In Shepard’s hands “CHIPS” is a mix of motorcycles and masturbation, homophobic jokes and gratuitous nudity. It’s hard to know exactly how to categorize “CHIPS.” It is a remake of a TV show although Erik Estrada, star of the original series and who also appears in the film, took to twitter to blast the remake as “demeaning” to long time “CHiPS” fans.
It could also be filed under the comedy category although I’d suggest the action sequences are more successful than the attempts at humour.
To recap: It’s a remake, a comedy and an action film and yet it doesn’t quite measure up to any of those descriptors. It’s a remake in the sense that Shepard has lifted the title, character names and general situation but they are simply pegs to hang his crude jokes on.
It’s a comedy—there is a paparazzi joke that made me laugh hard—but it’s a lowest common denominator comedy. I like a poop joke as much as anyone, but there have to be peaks and valleys. Shepard aims low, then goes lower. If you like a certain amount of shame with your cheap laughs then “CHIPS” is for you.
When the movie isn’t commenting on Ponch’s bathroom habits it is laying rubber. The crime story isn’t terribly complicated or interesting but the guys tear up the pavement with a handful of pretty good chase scenes. They are frenetic and it’s not always possible to tell exactly who is who, but the scenes add some zip to the story.
“CHIPS” is not your father’s “CHiPS.” It’s a kinda-sorta action comedy that revels in its rudeness at the expense of paying tribute to the source material.