Movie Review: ‘CHIPS’ Lowbrow and Very Funny
R | 1 hour 40 min | Action, Comedy, Crime | 24 March 2017 (USA)
Dax Shepard is a Hollywood “triple-threat”—an actor who acts, writes, and directs (the New York triple-threat acts, sings, and dances). He also races (and stunt rides) top-end Ducati motorcycles—so who better to make a movie version of the 1970s motorcycle cop TV show “CHiPS,” right? Sort of.
Is “CHIPS” any good? It’s hilarious! It’s also got much grossness. But then, so does every R-rated comedy these days; comedy and bawdiness have gone hand in hand since the ancient Greeks. Not justifying, just saying.
“CHIPS” will do nothing for your moral standard, but if you like the thought of A-lister Michael Peña doing a clown version of his work in the crime drama “End of Watch,” if you enjoy buddy-cop banter, or if you love motorcycles, you’ll likely laugh yourself silly.
You’ll also probably be 20-something, wear your baseball-cap backwards, say words like “bro” and “dude,” own your own pool cue, and “rent” lots of beer. Straight out of the gate, I predict “CHIPS” will become a perennial mega-hit with the frat-house/sorority set.
Nice dude Jonathan Andrew Baker (Shepard) and smart-mouth Francis Llewellyn Poncherello (not his real name) (Peña) play newly minted California Highway Patrol (CHP) motorcycle cops.
Baker’s a washed-up former pro-motocross biker, still sporting a ripped, 42-going-on-19 athlete’s bod, and hoping to re-spark his foundering marriage to Karen (played by Shepard’s real-life wife, Kristen Bell, a Hollywood A-list comedienne in her own right).
Poncherello is working undercover for the FBI. He’s got a penchant for shooting bullets through his partners’ bodies to hit the bad guys standing behind them. Ponch is tracking a CHP insider, dirty-cop scam.
And so, in terms of a plot—uh-th-that’s all, folks!
More Bro Dudes!
Peña is personally one of my favorite actors working today. He can slam-dunk comedy and drama equally well, and when in comedic mode, he’ll steal scenes from most funny actors. So imagine my surprise when Shepard actually stole most of the scenes here. Well, you know, he wrote it, directed it, and stars in it—a guy with that much movie mojo would be a little bit pathetic if he couldn’t steal his own movie. Still, it’s no easy feat to pull off, going up against Peña.
Now, “going up against Peña,” er, physically, is the source of a giant portion of the frat-boy humor here. Dedicated to one of the favorite sources of male humor enjoyed by contact sports teams and military platoons everywhere, it’s the having of flapping, flailing, panicked hysterics because their bodies inadvertently, inappropriately touched. There’s one particular instance of this that’s guaranteed to have the boys of Phi Slama Jama and the girls of Delta Phi Delta spraying beer through their noses. Needless to say, this deeply ingrained “hetero fear trigger” will not go over well in today’s politically correct world.
The other source of hilarity is the personality clash between Jon’s touchy-feely, self-help-y, TMI approach to life, and Ponch’s hyper-macho, deflect-y denial.
It’s a predictable Felix/Oscar, odd couple-type pairing, but Shepard-as-Jon does a very fun job of examining Peña-as-Ponch’s various furtive, dysfunctional behaviors and exposing them in that classic, shaming, bird dog sniffing around, mommy way, in which moms quietly home in on and suddenly dig Junior’s bare-naked lady photos out his sock drawer, and say, “What’s this?!” To Ponch’s immense chagrin. This is highly pleasing.
One note of annoying wrongness is the pain killer-dependent Jon (look at all the biker scars right there!) constantly, excruciatingly banging and falling on his bad knee, only to gracefully mount over obstacles like Santa’s reindeer a minute later.
The Bikes, Dude
The chase scenes aren’t nearly as good as what Tom Cruise pulls off in the “Mission Impossible” series, but even if you’re a biker with a die-hard Harley Davidson fetish, you may find yourself strangely itching to try out one of those monstrously speed-demony, 110-horsepower Ducati Hypermotard bikes. More effective frat-boy/dude marketing.
But What About Quality?
Huh? What are you talking about? Seriously? Ohhh, right, “quality”—you’re talking about the main thesis of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” and not about a sophomoric movie, about motorcycle cops. Well … the you-knew-it-was-coming Erik Estrada cameo falls flat, the tone is inconsistent, the plot is moronic, and the boy banter is definitely dirty.
Even so, you don’t end up feeling quite as slime-balled as you would by those cynically manufactured studio comedies. This is the Dax show, and Dax is a decidedly likable dude.
And “CHIPS” will be triple-threat Dax’s big chip in the game. He’ll be a Hollywood player now, and be given carte blanche to make mo’ money for the man. The critics will be scathing, but the moviegoers will give it a thumbs-up: “Dude! ‘CHIPS’ and chips and beer-pong in the quad tonight!” “Awwriiight!”
Rated R for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence, and drug use.
Director: Dax Shepard
Cast: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kristen Bell
Running Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes
Release Date: March 24
Rated 3 stars out of 5