tv + film by Philbert Dy

‘CHIPS’ Punches Below Its Weight Class

Gay panic reigns in this thoughtless reboot.

NBHD movie 1-2 ticketsThis new version of CHIPS recasts Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) as a broken-down, opioid-addicted former X-Games motocross athlete who joins the California Highway Patrol in the hopes of fixing his marriage. Castillo (Michael Peña), an undercover FBI agent posing as CHP officer Ponch, is tasked with investigating a series of armored car robberies that seem to involve crooked members of the CHP. Ponch is then teamed up with the rookie Baker, and despite their many differences and various personal issues, the two become friends and end up working together to solve the case.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.17.21 PMThe film fleshes out these old characters by giving them addictions. Baker is in constant pain and has to pop pills just to be functional. And Ponch, who was a ladies’ man in the original film, is made out to be a sex addict. It’s an interesting approach that could have given the story a darker edge reminiscent of early ’90s action films. But that doesn’t really pan out in the movie, which never really takes those issues seriously enough to make them matter. It ultimately gives more priority to its particular brand of comedy, which isn’t very good at all. Its biggest comedic set pieces invariably involve really hack, fratty humor that reflects badly on these characters and everyone involved.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.10.55 PMToo many of the “jokes” in this film are built around Ponch being uncomfortable with seeing other men naked or being in contact with men who are no fully dressed. One of the most elaborate set pieces in this film has a punchline built around his face coming in contact with Baker’s pubic region. The film seems to want to play this as Ponch being a homophobe, putting him in the wrong, but it all just feeds into the same gay panic humor that should have gone out of fashion years ago.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.15.39 PMPerhaps one could see the film as being more enlightened had it provided just one female character with any depth whatsoever. But the female characters in this film are all just props. They’re either there to be shrews or to be attracted to the two main characters. And the film is just playing it straight. It doesn’t seem like the movie is trying to be ironic about any of this. And even if it was, the content is so weak that it probably wouldn’t be worth it. The film is just punching below its weight class with the comedy, squandering a whole lot of talent along the way.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.13.07 PMThe film is only really tolerable when it gets to a chase. This really does seem to be the raison d’etre for the film. Writer, director, and star Dax Shepard is pretty open about his love for vehicles and his general passion for movie chases. And while there isn’t really enough that happens in these sequences, at the very least one can sense the genuine effort put into creating them. As the film’s star, Dax Shepard doesn’t even really seem to get the timing of his own writing. Michael Peña is a little off rhythm as well. Vincent D’Onofrio pops up as this film’s villain, and he may as well be in a different, much better movie.Screen Shot 2017-04-06 at 12.39.59 PMAnd perhaps it is asking too much of this CHIPS remake to be enlightened. The original show wasn’t anything special, really. But on the other hand, this movie has enough talent in it that it didn’t need to be so lazy. Because the film’s stabs at comedy aren’t really integral to anything else that’s going on. These guys didn’t need to be meatheads. The women didn’t need to be mindless movie props. The movie just needed to ask a little more of itself, and not settle for the tired old trops from decades of bad movies.

Philbert Dy
Philbert Ortiz Dy has been reviewing movies professionally since 2007, and has thus dedicated his life to being yelled at by fans of literally everyone. He is currently the Online Editor of Yell at him on Twitter at @philbertdy.
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