RICHARD T. JONES
BASED ON THE TELEVISION SERIES CREATED BY
RAVI D. MEHTA
Never able to capitalise on the easy chemistry between its leads, CHIPS consistently proves to be a comedically queasy buddy cop mishap, that does little to re-establish the legacy of its source material to a new generation.
Adaptations of popular TV programs are a hit and miss affair. For every 21 Jump St & Starsky & Hutch, there is a Dukes of Hazard or Bewitched to lower the grade. CHIPS very much belongs to the latter group. Based on the hit TV show that ran from the late 70s the early 80s, whatever appeal CHIPS have on the small screen is very much lost in adaptation.
Dax Shepard stars as Jon Baker, a former X-Games champion who joins the California Highway Patrol in a last-ditch effort to save his crumbling marriage to adulterer wife Karen (Kristen Bell). Partnered with Jon is Frank Poncherello (Michael Pena), an undercover FBI agent who, with the help of his oblivious rookie partner, investigate a group of dirty cops led by the imposing Vic Brown (Vincent D’Onofrio.)
As written, produced and directed by Shepard (Hit & Run), whatever slither of potential appears on screen is just as quickly brushed away by a comedic tone that while familiar, is incredibly lowbrow even in this post Hangover age. The wise move of casting Pena as the pepper to Shepard’s salt is the films highlight. Pena, who has excelled in similar buddy cop roles in End of Watch and War on Everyone, brings an easy chemistry that blends well with Sheppard’s sad sack jock shtick.
Problem is the low-quality script that does neither actor, nor indeed anyone watching, any favours. Outside of the central plot which holds hardly any interest, Shepard has created a buddy cop movie based around the addictions of its main characters: Jon to painkillers which barely hold together his wreck of a body, and Frank to sex. Cue plenty shots of women in jeggings and a never ending amount of talk about anal foreplay. By halfway the queasy, sophomoric nature of the films comedy overrides any interest in its story.
Exactly how anyone signed off on Shepard’s script is a mystery. While he has flashes as a director (the films action scenes are rather entertaining and well shot), his approach to story and character is way off. Perhaps someone thought that Shepard could become the next Todd Philips (The Hangover). Yet with his track record as any indication, Shepard makes Todd Philips look like Charlie Chaplin.