A movie that came out last weekend, CHIPS is the re-imagining of the late-70’s TV show starring Erik Estrada for a new age. The film was released to overwhelmingly negative reviews from critics all over the country. Begrudgingly, I finally dragged myself to the theater to see this 21 Jump Street rip-off. But was it as bad as critics made it out to be?
CHIPS is directed and written by Dax Shepard who also stars in the movie alongside Michael Pena and Vincent D’Onofrio. The film tells the story of Frank Poncherello (Pena) who is a Federal agent tasked with going undercover with the California Highway Patrol (i.e. CHIPS) in order to do some detective work on the aftermath of a gruesome heist excuted by a group of top-notch motorcyclists that resulted in a man taking his own life. As part of his cover, Ponch is paired up with fellow rookie Jon Baker (Shepard), a former professional motorbiker with a number of painful injuries to show for it. However, before the two can solve the case, they must learn to work together.
Once studios sniff out a possible trend in Hollywood, they all seem to fast-track a movie of their own into theaters in order to capitalize on the success of the trendsetter. As we all know, both 21 Jump Street and 22 Jump Street were big successes both critically and financially for Columbia Pictures. As a result, we’re now in for a bunch of television shows rebooted as R-rated, raunchy comedy films with CHIPS hitting theaters as well as Baywatch due out in theaters this summer.
This idea certainly played out well for 21 Jump Street as it blended elements of the original show with meta-humor and an overarching snarky attitude led by great chemistry between Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. But does this template seem like a good fit for CHIPS?
It seems as if Warner Bros. gave Dax Shepard a ton of creative control on this project. Considering the last movie he directed was Hit & Run back in 2012, I was skeptical as to what the final product would be. For a movie like CHIPS to work, the team behind it needs to create a very intelligent film behind all the laughs. 21 Jump Street clearly had a solid directing team behind it, as Phil Lord and Christopher Miller have since signed on to direct the young Han Solo film due out in theaters next year.
Does Dax Shepard compare to these two? I don’t think so.
But hey, I’ve certainly been wrong before. CHIPS can’t be that bad, right?
What I Didn’t Like
Yeah…CHIPS is even worse than I thought.
As with any buddy cop movie, the success of the film largely depends on the chemistry between the two lead characters. I really like both Michael Pena and Dax Shepard, and they seem to be good buddies from the promotional material for the film, but their rapport is practically nonexistent in the film itself. The writing doesn’t help them much (more on that in a second) but the lines of dialogue that, in a vacuum, could be considered funny, fall really flat with awkward timing and word usage. Michael Pena feels like he’s sleepwalking through this film while waiting to be another funny side character in a big, tent-pole film while Shepard looks like he didn’t even read his own script beforehand.
A lot of the issues in CHIPS, however, come from the writing of the film. Dax Shepard has shown in the past that he’s talented (while also having an adorable relationship with his wife Kristen Bell), but his writing is clearly the main culprit behind CHIPS’ failure both with critics and the box office.
What I’m referring to here can easily be summed up by an example of supposedly “witty” banter between Shepard and Pena. In one of their arguments, Shepard refers to a house as a “domicile.” When was the last time you heard someone use the word, “domicile?” The 1940’s? This type of dialogue runs rampant through CHIPS, making the whole movie off-putting while Michael Pena does his best to try to improvise to avoid talking like my grandfather.
What I Didn’t Like…Continued
The “humor” employed by CHIPS is also aggressively raunchy, so if that isn’t your cup of tea than CHIPS is then most definitely not for you. As for me, I’d never be the one to shy away from a phallic joke in a movie. In fact, I get a lot of satisfaction out of toilet humor, but CHIPS goes about setting up these sex jokes the complete wrong way, making the film more cringe-worthy than funny.
Take 21 Jump Street for instance, since CHIPS is so desperately attempting to mimic its style. The vulgar jokes used in this film work extremely well due to two things: timing and joke structure. There’s no denying that these quips become funnier because Jonah Hill is a master raunchy comedic actor, but the numerous amount of explicit jokes is delivered with such clever dialogue alongside it that the skill of the actors and screenwriters shines through mightily.
As for CHIPS, the film is a lot of gross-out gags just for the sake of gross-out gags, lackingthe nuance that makes these jokes funny in other films.
What I Didn’t Like…Continued…Continued
You may be wondering, is the story all that compelling?
No, not really.
You’ve seen the story beats of CHIPS before in many other movies. Two quirky characters that don’t see eye to eye have to eventually put aside their differences in order to succeed on the job. That’s it. No spoilers are in this review, but you can easily fill in the cracks.
Not surprisingly, this film is pretty painful to sit through. I just HAD to check my phone during CHIPS to see how much longer the film was going to last. I expected the film to almost be over, then I realized I had another 30 minutes to watch. CHIPS clocks in at about an hour and 40 minutes but feels closer to three.
As a whole, CHIPS is a movie to avoid. I am using no hyperbole when I say that I did not laugh once during its run time. It gets an F. Your money is much better off being saved for another movie that is coming soon to theaters.
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[…] (Tribeca 2016), XX (Sundance 2017), Softness of Bodies (LAFF 2018), Tone-Deaf (SXSW 2018), and CHiPs, directed by Dax […]
I’m so old I thought that this might be a remake of the headmaster movie, “Goodbye Mister Chips.” Anyway, thanks for the like of my Klondike Gold Rush blog. By now I’m a piece of history myself so I blog about aspects of my book, “Mysterious Builder of Seattle Landmarks, Searching for my Father.” One of these days I’ll have time for movies again and now I know where to find a good review!
Happy to help! I hope you enjoy them!!
Interesting. I went into this film with exceedingly low expectations and was pleasantly surprised. It may have helped that I didn’t even know who Dax Shepard was before I saw this film.
Good for you if you enjoyed it! I go into every movie hoping to like it but obviously that wasn’t the case here lol. But I’ve never been accused of being the ultimate authority of what movies are good and what aren’t, then again no one is!
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Thanks so much!
I love your reviews! Thank you so much for the follow.
Thanks so much! Glad to help!
Great review and about what I expected to hear. One note, and not to take away from your undoubtedly correct take on the movie’s writing. Domicile is a word that’s heard more frequently among cops than anywhere else. There was a plot point in an episode of Breaking Bad that pivoted on the specific use of that word.
Very fair point! I wasn’t aware of that (mostly because I still need to watch Breaking Bad lol) but it’s still said in such weird way in CHIPS that it’s pretty off-putting.
And here I thought the original TV show was bad!
From what I’ve heard it’s nothing like the show, but it’s pretty terrible in its own right lol
I loved the original, there’s even an old photo of me wearing the uniform as a 5 year-old. But I could tell this was going to be horrendous when I saw the trailer. Seems I was right. :-(
You were spot on! lol
Just popped by to thank you for the ‘like’ and ‘follow’.
You’re very welcome!
I loved the original show but from the trailers to the interviews with cast and crew you could tell there was zero respect for the source material and this was simply a money grab. They use a well known brand name to bring in the older crowds that grew up watching it and then try to bring in the kids that have never seen an episode but have heard of the show from parents. Problem is they completely rework a concept until it is unrecognizable and it only appeals to one group or none at all. The older crowd eventually sees it bares no resemblance at all to the show and is turned off and the kids either like it or not based on what the movie is. The sad thing is you can do a good update if you respect the source material and make it contemporary. I can’t wait until they make Game of Thrones into a comedy in 20 years. Pass!
Lol that’s too funny regarding your comments about Game of Thrones! It’s great comparison
Thank you for a well-stated unvarnished opinion. I was never likely to go see this movie, but I do recall the TV series when it originally aired (yes, I’m that old). It was not great theater even then, but it was entertaining, and never gross or garbage.
It’s definitely a departure from that!
Ugh. Further proof of the utter vacumn of original ideas in Hollywood. This and a Baywatch movie in the same year? We are all damned, its obvious.
Couldn’t agree more. At least Baywatch has some promise with a solid cast though!
No desire at all to see this one. I enjoyed the CHIPS show when I was a kid. I honestly don’t want to ruin those memories with garbage like this. Great review.
Thanks so much! You’re right to stay away if you enjoyed the TV show. It’ll only lessen the value of it!
Good review! How did a movie like this ever get greenlit by Studio execs?
Someone must have some compelling blackmail of an executive as Warner Bros.!
Haha…you’re probably right about that!
Well I already wasn’t planning on seeing this one. Especially not after having seen the trailer for it. This review only confirms it even more, that I should avoid this one ??
Yes! At all costs! lol
Take this review as a cautionary tale lol
Thanks for watching this and providing your rating. My interest in seeing it wasn’t high, based on what I saw in your trailers, and you confirmed your conclusions.
Have you ever reviewed Tropic Thunder?
I have not! Is it on Netflix?
I’ve never seen it on Netflix, so I’m not sure. Sorry.
No problem! It’s certainly one of the better comedies of recent memory. I’ll be sure to remember this conversation in the chance that it does show up on Netflix someday!
I should mention that I brought it up because it was a movie that I didn’t expect to enjoy and was one of the rare exceptions that I did enjoy. That prompted me to wonder what you thought of it. Cheers