Just when you thought (hoped) that Hollywood had run out of 60s, 70s and 80s TV shows to adapt to the big screen, here comes a modern version of “CHiPs” – the NBC police drama that ran for six seasons from 1977-1983 and made Ponch/Erik Estrada an instant star.
Movie comedies based on TV series have been a mixed bag. The best have at least one of the following characteristics: a great script and terrific cast (“Get Smart”), a unique spin and clever tie-ins to the original (“Bewitched”) and/or wall-to-wall laughs (the “Jump Street” films). “CHIPS” doesn’t have any of those things.
Dax Shepard (“Parenthood”) officially stamps himself as a true triple threat to the world of cinema with “CHIPS”, which he wrote, directed and stars-in, earning him the Triple Crown of Crap Award, and the largest chunk of the blame for this complete 50-car pile-up of a film.
Shepard plays rookie California Highway Patrol officer Jon Baker, an ex-motocross star who wants to become to cop to get his wife back. Michael Pena, who’s done some nice supporting work in his career, is also out of his league here as the partner – and new Ponch. In the first five minutes of “CHIPS” we learn that these two guys do not have what it takes to carry a movie as leads – especially a comedy.
What there is of a script (the lame “good cop going undercover to catch bad cops” storyline) is full of holes, with several scenes that not only don’t make sense, but are poorly staged, shot and edited. The desperate attempts at comedy are extremely crude, sexually offensive, tasteless and most of all – simply unfunny. There’s also plenty of mindless dialogue and long motorcycle chases produced at the level of 80s television. There were numerous times while watching “CHIPS” when I couldn’t help but wonder how this project ever made it theaters.
The casting is as uninspired as everything else: Jane Kaczmarek, Josh Duhamel, Ben Falcone, Maya Rudolph. Shepard apparently took a page out of the Adam Sandler “let’s make a movie with all my friends – and it’ll be hilarious” playbook – with equally disastrous results. And, of course, Shepard’s real-life wife, Kristen Bell, plays his wife. Bet you didn’t see that coming.
One person not in the film is Larry Wilcox, who played Jon on the TV show. He recently said in an interview – “It’s a complex issue, but basically, I wasn’t invited to my own party”. Wilcox should consider himself the luckiest man in showbusiness (Estrada does have a late cameo). Wilcox also told Vulture he plans on waiting until “Chips” is released On Demand before seeing it. I’d “chip” away at that idea as soon as possible.
On The Official LCJ Report Card, “CHIPS” gets an F. It’s a Highway to Movie Hell.
Next-up for Shepard is the animated revamping of “Scooby Doo”, which is currently in production. He’s both co-writer and co-director. All I can say is: Ruh-roh!
Running Time: 100 min.