Some TV reboots would be better left un-rebooted.
CHiPS is an annoying movie. Annoying, because it’s 85% predictable, homophobic R-rated rubbish, but also somehow 15% spectacularly funny. The quality of those few jokes that do land hence raises the question: was the writer - Dax Shepard (who also stars in, and directs, the film) just lucky on those rare occasions, or lazy on all others?
Given the film itself is merely the latest in a long line of old TV show reboots, ‘laziness’ seems the likely contender. Such a theory gains even more weight when you consider the comedic chops of Shepard's cast, boasting, amongst others, Michael Peña, Kristen Bell and Maya Rudolph. Plus, Shepard himself is no mug when it comes to making us laugh, so how and why he (and everyone else involved) felt this script was in a strong enough position to shoot remains a mystery.
The plot is at once entirely predictable and massively convoluted. Peña plays Frank "Ponch” Poncherello, an FBI agent going undercover into the California Highway Patrol (unit known as the CHP) in order to expose a gang of officers suspected of carrying out a series of armoured car robberies. He’s partnered up with probationary officer Jon Baker (Shepard) - a former X-Games motorcyclist whose body is now in a state of such ruin it’s comparable to Jeff Bridges’ Admiral Benson in Hot Shots. Addicted to pain killers and determined to win back his adulterous, trophy-wife Karen (also Shepard’s real wife Kristen Bell), Baker is an Owen Wilson-esque modern age man forever discussing 'closure’ of issues and expressing concern for Peña’s presumed homophobia (a theme so recurrent yet without any purpose that it’s purely offensive). Together, Ponch and Baker cycle around California, occasionally doing police work, mostly swearing, masturbating and blowing things up, until the movie ends.
The funny bits are funny, but they’re so few and far between that it makes the exercise of discovering them far from worth it. Vincent D’Onofrio (Daredevil) does a solid effort imbuing his gang leader character with some degree of complexity when all other characters are merely caricatures, but it’s not enough to save this otherwise dull and dreary affair.