Originally published on The National Student on 23/03/17.
Dax Shepherd’s poorly timed buddy-cop remake really struggles to stay afloat in a post-Jump Street world.
For those still unsure (which is most likely every single member of the film’s blatant horny teenager demographic), CHIPS was a semi-successful American TV drama in the late 1970s/early 1980s following the California Highway Patrol as they, well, patrolled the highways of California.
This modern-day reboot though, aside from keeping the bikes and dorky uniforms in check, all but does away with everything else the original series was known for. In its place is a barely watchable 100 minutes of crude humour, runaway action, and an unwelcome dose of some of the most unnecessary nudity this side of an American Pie spin-off.
Obviously, following on from the ridiculous success of Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s unexpected cop comedy hit 21 Jump Street and it’s sequel, it’s clear where the thinking came from here. Another cult police show getting the 21st Century treatment might well make sense on paper, but where Shepherd and co.’s latest effort starts to veer wildly off course is in just how little brainpower they put into any of it.
What starts as a fairly basic buddy comedy with plenty of promise – a veteran FBI agent (Michael Peña) going undercover, only to partner up with a sad-sack rookie (Shepherd himself) – pretty quickly loses its way. CHIPS isn’t really powered by any cleverly-scripted mystery, or even much of a central bromance either; instead the entire thing seems to just hinge on nothing more than a never-ending string of hit/miss sex jokes, most of which are totally irrelevant to whatever the hell’s going on around them.
Shepherd and Peña are both likeable actors elsewhere, as are Maya Rudolph, Jane Kaczmarek, Vincent D’Onofrio and even Frozen’s Kristen Bell, but it’s a real testament to just how misguided this whole thing ends up, that not a single one of them comes out of CHIPS with anything more than a (at most, forgettable) black mark against their names.
Every single female character ends up as either a love interest, a sex object, or both, while over half of them seem happy enough to send pictures of their boobs to random strangers (a really weird subplot in itself). Even the main duo very rarely do anything more than make borderline homophobic jokes or lust after their female colleagues. Whatever odd specs of character depth that you can just about pick up, from trophy wives to genuine mental health conditions, come out severely underdeveloped and mostly end up ditched at the roadside.
In fact, one of the film’s only redeeming features is oddly enough its action set-pieces. Despite pretty much giving up on its whole undercover plot less than halfway through, and sacrificing the large majority of its twists and turns for one more poorly-timed jibe at Oscar Pistorius (I mean, seriously?), there are any number of well-shot bike chases that Shepherd deserves plenty of praise for. The stunt driving alone is impressive enough for an otherwise lowest-common-denominator comedy, and in keeping things almost entirely in-camera, the action here is surprisingly focussed.
The only problem being that said approach doesn’t really balance well with CHIPS’ crude sense of humour at all. So we end up with this bizarre mixture of quick-fire sleaziness and the occasional insane cross-city chase, all wrapped up with a fairly cover-all-bases finale, that ultimately does very little to pull the quality back up to even close to simply ‘watchable’.
All-in, CHIPS is basically a lazy Jump Street for the quietly sexist crowd, lacking any sense of the wit, charm or even baseline intelligence to make a buddy movie work. It’s possibly the first film to be so aggressively shifted at the horny teenage demographic since the early Fast & Furious clones; a hugely disappointing, and really very backwards comedy that deserves to be forgotten.
CHIPS is out in UK cinemas from 24th March.