Shepard and Peña can’t step it up when the CHiPS are down
Director: Dax Shepard Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Kristen Bell, Vincent D’Onofrio Running Time: 101 minutes
Dax Shepard, the star of such old Xtra-vision dust-gatherers as Without a Paddle, Employee of the Month and Let’s Go to Prison does not appear to be a fan of the television show CHiPs on which his new movie is based. Shepard is the writer, director and lead of CHiPs, but he’s no auteur working on a passion project, nor is he a bankable star in need of a vehicle. Actual fans of the cheesy late 70s/early 80s show appear to be less than enthused with this broad remake. It isn’t a guaranteed box office property. Look the executives who gave the greenlight to this sub-par comedy and ask them why they thought this film needed to exist at all, and what possible answer could they give, apart from a half hearted shrug of the shoulders and a “I dunno, 21 Jump Street?”
Though remaking cheesy American television into movies in the name of brand recognition is a trend that goes back to the 90s and endures to this day despite almost never working, 21 Jump Street was undoubtedly a massive success and was definitely something the creative minds behind CHiPs were hoping to emulate. Shepard it seems took the meta approach in doing things the Jump Street way, by posing as a burnout teenager while writing the script for his own movie. His adolescent screenplay is packed full of embarrassing thirst, gay panic and unnecessary explosions.
Shepard plays Jon Baker, a former bike riding champion with a long list of injuries and an addiction to pills who spuriously joins the California Highway Patrol in his middle age in an attempt to impress his wavering trophy wife (played by Shepard’s real life wife Kristen Bell, bless her patience). The rookie teams up with Michael Peña as an FBI agent with a sex addiction (ha, sex) who goes undercover as Officer Frank Poncherello in the Highway Patrol in an effort to uncover corruption in the department. Together, they cause property damage, engage in witless banter, discuss the prevalence of anilingus in modern dating and very, very slowly, uncover the sinister plot of head corrupt cop, Vincent D’Onofrio.
Saying that CHiPs is unfunny is one thing, but what’s more noteworthy is how rarely it even seems to be trying to tell jokes. Peña at least has some degree of comic timing even if his track record in films is a mixed bag, Shepard floundered in mainstream movies over a decade ago and hasn’t appeared to have developed much of a comedic persona since. Comedic set pieces struggle for the spotlight with action and chase scenes that Shepard has no skill whatsoever in putting together, and a lot of Baker and Ponch’s investigative process, completely uninteresting because the pair have no chemistry and the audience already knows pretty much everything from very early on. D’Onofrio’s character is one of the more bizarrely handled characters in a widely released movie in recent times, a subplot with a drug addicted son and his senseless death is perhaps a shade or too more dramatic than something the villain of a nothing buddy cop comedy should be dealing with. It’s hard not to have sympathy for him, corruption or no, because he has real problems, while our heroes are a couple of yahoos who masturbate too much or are too dumb to realise that their wife is cheating on them.
From the tiresome “bitch wife”, to the desperate no-homo discussions between the leads, CHiPs feels like a relic from the bad comedies of the early 2000s as much as the lame TV of the late 70s. It’s sad when a film makes Starksy and Hutch look better by comparison, but there must be some merit to it surely? Some reason for it to exist? I suppose it does give Erik Estrada, star of the original series, the standard cameo. Hopefully he spent the pay cheque on a nice meal, or some moderately priced furniture. Hopefully none of it went to a ticket for a pointless, laughless film like CHiPs.(1 / 5)