When I first read a CHiPs movie was coming out based on the 1970s cop show of the same name, I laughed. When I then realized that Dax Shepherd and Michael Peña were going to play the California Highway Patrolmen Baker and Poncho, respectively, I suddenly curved my mouth upside down and nodded in approval. Then the movie came out and was practically assaulted by the critics, many citing the film as crass, crude and tasteless...as well as alienating fans of the original show. I still wanted to give the movie a chance when it hit DVD and was a bit surprised that I sorta liked it. Granted, I was never a fan of the NBC show which ran for six seasons from 1977-1983 to begin with; never watched it as a kid, although I did review the entire 2nd season online nearly a decade ago. Quoting my original review: “How I survived all of these episodes is beyond me as my brain now feels like oatmeal. What tested my patience the most was watching characters that are all badly written stereotypes. While I sympathize with those who fondly remember the show and love it for what it is, I just couldn't grasp the appeal it once had.”
Written and directed by Dax Shepherd, the movie version contains those same stereotypes but seems to mock them with merciless glee this time around. Shepherd's Jon Baker is an aging rookie (who has had 23 surgeries due to his years as a champion motorcycle enthusiast) who graduates on probation and is saddled with undercover FBI agent Frank “Ponch” Poncherelli, a leering Ladies Man who's character flaw is being so reckless he usually gets his partners injured. As for Baker, he can't seem to shut up about his wife (played by Shepherd's real-life wife, Kristen Bell), who he's been separated from for awhile and is desperate to patch everything back together. Baker & Ponch soon find themselves investigating a series of armed-car robberies being executed by the corrupt Lt. Ray Kurtz (Vincent D'Onofrio). Typical cop buddy shenanigans ensue, punctuated by highway chases, hot babes in spandex and sexual perversion jokes on everything from chronic masturbation to “standard” rim-jobbing.
Critics may have trashed ChiPs to no avail, but I found it to be a fairly amusing action-comedy which only had one goal and that was to make people laugh. And laugh I did sometimes, while other times I had a shameless smile on my face before everything gets swallowed up by predictable third-act mayhem. I seriously enjoyed the profanity-laced banter between Shepherd & Peña, who seem to be having a blast onscreen; it was also a real treat seeing Shepherd not only act alongside his beautiful Bell (who will always be Sarah Marshall to me), but also Maya Rudolph in a hilarious, uncredited bit as the officer who passes Baker on probation. Shepherd & Rudolph had previously worked together in Mike Judge's satiric masterpiece Idiocracy, and it was a joy seeing them play off each other even if it was only one scene. Kudos to Shepherd for also peppering the cast with a bunch of appealing familiar faces, including Melissa McCarthy's husband Ben Falcone as a bicycle cop, Ed Begley Jr. as a WASP driver, Mae Whitman (aka The DUFF) and Erik Estrada, the original Ponch, as a paramedic. Evidently, Estrada himself gave Shepherd's film his seal of approval on social media, even if the show's purists cried foul at the fact that everything was raunched up to the nth degree. Sordid innuendos aside, what impressed me was Shepherd's approach to the action scenes and motorcycle stunts, which are all explosively fun to watch.
- DVD SPECS & EXTRAS -
Because of the film's poor reception, I opted to check ChiPs out on the regular DVD from Warner Bros. which is sadly void of bonus material. From what I've read, the Blu-ray version doesn't have much to offer in this area aside from approximately 10 minutes of deleted scenes (complete with introductions by Shepherd) and a couple of brief featurettes; while it would have been cool for Shepherd to sit down for an audio commentary, whether solo or with Peña, I may pick up the Blu-ray somewhere down the road. Still, Warner's DVD provides more than enough for the eyes and ears with the 1.85:1 widescreen presentation and 5.1 Surround mix delivering in spades on both fronts. Colors are crisp, the various L.A. locations look great, and all of the explosions (and expletives) come through your speakers without any issues whatsoever. The DVD also contains a 5.1 English descriptive audio track, additional 5.1 Surround tracks in French Spanish, as well as subtitles in all three languages. To sum everything up, Shepherd's script may have its fair share of genre defaults and flaws, but he directs the action with a boundless energy which is infectious. ChiPs is recommended for those particular action-comedy crowds who are more than open to extreme crudeness, and love to enhance their viewing experience via cannabis and/or alcohol.
- ABOUT THE AUTHOR -
Stone Gasman has been addicted to cinema ever since he was a child, becoming hooked on Chaplin, Hitchcock and Wilder by the time he was 10 years old. The film which changed his life was The Best Years of Our Lives, the 1946 winner for Best Picture and eight additional Oscars, which ultimately inspired him to join the US Navy. He is now a disabled veteran residing in New York City.