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Saturday, March 25, 2017

CHIPS

Of all the TV shows to bring to the big screen, why CHIPS?  Was there really an audience demanding a big screen version?  And if there has to be a movie, why this one, which is very, very bad.  It's the kind of lame, dead in the water comedy that makes you ask the same thing over and over - What were they thinking?

Actually, I know exactly what director, writer, producer and star Dax Shepard was thinking.  He obviously saw 2012's 21 Jump Street and it's 2014 sequel, and thought he could do the same thing by reviving an old cop drama, and turning it into a hard-R parody.  But you see, the Jump Street movies were not only genuinely funny, but they played off the cliches.  And not just the cliches of the buddy cop genre, but also of the entire genre of rebooting old ideas or TV shows into new franchises.  With CHIPS, Shepard has filled his script top to bottom with every four-letter world imaginable, as well as probably every sex joke he could think of.  The problem is, the jokes he has come up with are some the lamest you could possibly dream up.  There's not a single moment here that is inspired, bright or even hopeful.  It's simply a long slog of a movie where the only thing that gets you through it is the thought that it will be over at some point.

Shepard plays Jon Baker, a former stunt motorcyclist who was forced to quit his career after he fractured pretty much every bone in his body one time too many.  He's now determined to be a member of the California Highway Patrol, even though he's terrible at it.  He can't shoot straight, he's physically incompetent, and he pops pills like they were candy.  However, he does know how to ride a motorcycle really well, so he gets a shot at being a rookie.  Jon is really doing this in order to impress his estranged wife (Shepard's real life wife, Kristen Bell), who clearly no longer cares about him, and frequently cheats on other men right in front of him.  The problem with the character of Jon Baker is that Shepard does too good of a job to make him pathetic, but not funny.  The man is simply unbearable, and not much fun to watch.

When Jon joins the force, he is joined up with a fellow officer named Frank "Ponch" Poncherello (Michael Pena), who is actually an FBI agent working undercover within the California Highway Patrol in order to expose some dirty cops on the force being led by Vic Brown (Vincent D'Onofrio).  Ponch reluctantly lets Jon in on the investigation, and a friendship is supposed to build, despite the obvious differences between the two.  Jon is by the book, strung out on painkillers, and is prone to projectile vomiting around weird smelling houses.  Ponch is a sex addict, and acts much more recklessly on the job.  Their differences originally set them at odds with one another, but they gradually warm up and learn to work together.  That's what the screenplay is going for, at least.  In reality, we never buy the friendship between these two for a minute, because Shepard and Pena don't have the slightest bit of on screen chemistry, and can't breathe any life into the dead-on-arrival screenplay.

CHIPS seems to be trying to poke fun at male egotism and sexual lust, but it gets confused somewhere along the way, and instead ends up glorifying it instead of joking about it.  What we have is a movie with a very nasty homophobic streak, as well as countless scenes where women in various stages of undress throw themselves at our heroes one after another.  But, the movie never figures out how to make any of this stuff funny in the slightest.  This is a comedy that barely makes any effort to get the audience to laugh.  Instead, it just has the same lame sex gags repeating themselves, such as how the movie creates a number of gags built around Jon's genitalia, which never go anywhere, or the running gag about Ponch getting nude photos from women.  None of it builds, and the actors eventually start to look uncomfortable up there on the screen.  This is surprising on the part of Shepard, when you consider that this was obviously his vision for a movie based on the TV show.

Really, the movie's sole joke boils down to the fact that its two main characters can't stand the thought of being labeled as gay.  They are oogled at by just about every woman on the force (and one gay cop who just shows up once in a while to be gay, then disappear), and that's really as far as the joke goes.  Why is this funny?  What is the satire?  What is the point?  Unlike the Jump Street movies, this one doesn't even bother to mimic or mock the formula of the buddy cop genre.  It just plays up the dumb sex jokes, and throws a couple motorcycle stunts and shootouts in once in a while.  This is just a painfully stupid and insipid movie that never goes anywhere, and never comes close to a successful gag.  Speaking of the motorcycle stunts and shootouts, they fail to bring any excitement to the mix, thanks to Shepard's decision to shoot them in such a way that they look like outtakes from a much longer action sequence.

CHIPS is simply wrong-headed in just about every way imaginable, and wrong in a whole lot of other ways, as well.  It's devoid of charm, spirit, laughs, good will and a sense of purpose.  In other words, it's a stinker, and I hope audiences will be able to smell this one coming from a mile away so that we don't get a sequel in a couple years.

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