You only have to look at the title of “CHIPS” to tell that it is a pure stinker. In remaking the venerable TV series into a movie (I refuse to call it a “film” or “motion picture”), these people couldn’t even properly present the name. “CHIPS” is supposed to be “CHiPs” like the TV show got correctly – the CHP stands for California Highway Patrol and the lower case “i” and “s” flesh out the acronym to a word. After the title fiasco, it only gets worse (and most people wouldn’t notice the title mistake). Simply put, “CHIPS” is a bad movie; it has very little passing for what could ever be evaluated as acting; it completely tortures the story premise of the TV series along with torturing the audience; and the writing and directing are more on a level of a high school play. Only one real bright spot for “CHIPS:” The original “Ponch” has a brief guest spot!
(2017; 100 minutes; rated R; directed by Dax Shepard and starring Michael Peña, Dax Shepard and Vincent D’Onofrio)
A WICKEDLY BAD TV-TO-MOVIE CONVERSION
(NOTE: I updated this review with the box office total for “CHIPS” on Jan. 28, 2018. I edited the review and corrected a misspelling of Dax Shepard’s first name and fixed several typos on Aug. 9, 2018.)
Do yourself a favor and don’t watch “CHIPS.” If you have seen it, please consider ordering yourself an exorcism on vatican.va to eliminate nightmares and prevent you from considering never to set foot in a theater again. I can think of only one reason to even attempt to watch “CHIPS:” The two headliners, Michael Peña and Dax Shepard, actually have some chemistry when they bicker. Too bad the vast majority of the movie is more like a colonoscopy without anesthesia … or lubricant.
I wouldn’t mind updating of the TV show, just as I didn’t with “The Dukes of Hazzard” (click here for my review). However, that one didn’t change just about the entire scope of the TV show. “CHIPS” keeps only a couple of things from the original: There’s “Ponch” and “Jon” and they are on the California Highway Patrol. That’s it. Actually, “Ponch” isn’t really “Ponch,” but I’ll get to that later, and in this one “Ponch” is the veteran and responsible, while “Jon” is the off-the-wall newbie.
By the time you get to know that “Ponch” isn’t really “Ponch,” it’s too late to turn off the TV. And, in the most ironic note, “CHIPS” is my most critical review, but within a year became the most-read single review on my blog (it had 1,270 page views on the morning of Aug. 9, 2018, and that’s 400 more than the No. 2-read review) and the second-most read behind the home page.
From a simple TV premise of a staid, veteran officer watchdogging a young officer on probation, you get the world’s oldest rookie (Shepard as former extreme biker “Jon Baker”) and a federal agent “Castillo” (Peña using the assumed name “Franklin Llewellyn ‘Ponch’ Poncherello”) who’s going undercover as a CHP officer to nail bad guys who are cops. Ouch! Even the “Baywatch” (click here for my review) movie stayed truer to the TV show. Another stinker that didn’t stay true is Nicole Kidman-Will Ferrell’s “Bewitched.”
It’s always good to be able to suspend your disbelief when trying to enjoy entertainment, however, it’s impossible with “CHIPS.” Every piece of the movie is contrived, stupid and an insult to the intelligence of the audience. And, since this piece of crap is listed on IMDb.com as the idea of, under the direction of and the co-starring of Shepard, he deserves all the blame. If he didn’t ever have another role or anything to direct, then that would be simple justice for the making of “CHIPS” and forever shaming the memory of the TV show (click here for my look at the TV series).
I can’t bring myself to examine much, if any, of the details of the rest of the film. There’s a CGI component (a decapitation is the obvious one) and “CHIPS” doesn’t know whether it wanted to be a visually exciting film with CGI or it was added later since there is such little else left in the movie. The sexual component of the movie is depressingly degrading to the actors and at times truly vulgar. I don’t mind puerile, vulgar humor (check out “Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay” – click here for my review), but this goes way beyond “The Hangover” franchise (click here for my look at it) or “We’re the Millers.”
Alas and unfortunately, I have to take a look at some of the principal cast if I’m going to review this stinkbomb:
- Like most others in “CHIPS,” Peña is watchable, but not here. He and Shepard bicker truly well and Peña shows he has timing and ability. Too bad it isn’t enough to elevate this one in any way. Peña has been in the World War II film “Fury” as well as “The Martian” with Matt Damon and “Shooter” with Mark Wahlberg.
- I have to say it will take time for me to have anything good to write about Shepard after having seen what he did with “CHIPS.” His acting here is execrable, although he, too, is good at bickering (in his character’s case it is unintentional) and he in no way shows any ability to rate another shot in a movie. Whew! This guy is terrible. Shepard has also been in or directed … ah, who cares. I don’t. Ask me another time.
- Emmy nominee D’Onofrio is the only actor in “CHIPS” who gives a performance. He brings menace to his bad-guy character “Lt. Ray Kurtz” and looks as if he tried to put some verve into it. D’Onofrio’s talent can’t do much to elevate the movie, but I do like watching him. He is probably most familiar as “Det. Robert Goren” on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” and is probably most remembered as psychotic “Pvt. Pyle” in “Full Metal Jacket” (click here for my review). I also liked him in “Jurassic World” (click here for my review).
- Bell is mere window dressing here. She doesn’t do much – if anything – and she’s probably only here because of being the wife of Shepard (or he got the movie because she’s a bigger star than her). Bell plays “Karen Baker,” who is “Jon’s” estranged wife. There isn’t any reason to go any further into her character. I liked Bell in “Couples Retreat” and she’s been in “The Boss,” “Forgetting Sarah Marshall” and voiced “Anna” in the hyper-popular Disney animation “Frozen.”
- I know Jane Kaczmarek, who plays oversexed “Capt. Jane Lindel,” is best known for her work on TV’s “Malcom in the Middle,” but just how far can one drop? Kaczmarek has a body-double nude scene and the character would improve if you could describe it as paper-thin. She has talent. I know this, but not because of this film. In spite of it, I’d say. Kaczmarek was nominated for three Golden Globes for “Malcolm” and has also been in “The Boat Builder.” The bulk of her career has been on TV.
Not a single Oscar nomination among them. Oh, well, I didn’t expect there’d be one from this group (although D’Onofrio is truly a solid actor and should have gotten one for his “Pvt. Pyle” character).
On the uncredited side, you get some actors whose talent is wasted or, in one case, the effort is lost amid the dreck. They are probably glad their names do not appear on the credits:
- Of course Golden Globe nominee (not for this “CHIPS,” but for the original) Erik Estrada, the really one and only “Ponch” for true fans, is immediately recognizable. Unfortunately, you have to wait until the end of the film to see him as a paramedic. I’m glad Estrada did this bit part even in such a stinker. “CHIPS” wouldn’t be the same without him. In his post-“CHiPs” days, Estrada continued the bulk of his work on TV and has a very prolific 145 credits over his career of five decades.
- I’m not sure why Josh Duhamel did this one. Of course a paycheck, but even the cash coming in can’t hide the disgust he must feel in his career with this one as “Rick.” I haven’t seen much of Duhamel, but I did like him on TV’s “Las Vegas” with James Caan.” He’s also in the “Transformers” franchise and even did a soap (“All My Children”).
- I understand why Emmy nominee Maya Rudolph signed on. She does a wonderful turn here – one of the bright spots – with the only well-written and executed scene in the movie. She manages more in her little time here than the rest of the cast put together. What I can’t figure out is why she went uncredited. Of course the movie’s a piece of crap, so I guess she didn’t want anyone to be able to see her name associated with it. I liked Rudolph in “Bridesmaids” as well as “Idiocracy.”
- Most mysterious is why the very talented and funny David Koechner agreed to play “Pat.” Koechner has shown he has both comedy and acting chops (take “The 40-Year-Old Virgin – click here for my review – or “Thank You for Smoking” – click here for my review), so I’m sure he was able to tell how bad this one would be. Ah, well. He had his reasons and I have mine for still liking him despite him being in “CHIPS” – as if he cares.
I won’t look at other actors who play CHP officers. Some show a spark of talent, but in this deep, dark mess, they don’t have any chance to shine. However, here’s one you might want to remember: Rosa Salazar as “Ava Perez.” Salazar is watchable and has been in “Insurgent” and her resume is mostly from TV.
I also won’t point up the gaping holes in the plot. As I already wrote, it’s good to suspend your disbelief, but, c’mon. Some of the stuff here doesn’t need suspension of disbelief, it would take a prefrontal lobotomy.
So, there you have it. “CHIPS” stinks and I can’t write it any other way.
Of course we don’t know how far down the rankings of movies for 2017 that “CHIPS” will fall by the end of the year, but at the writing of this review on July 8, it was the 49th ranked movie with $18.6 million, according to Box Office Mojo. The only thing left to see is if it will go into triple digits by Dec. 31. The No. 1 film as of July 8 is the update of “Beauty and the Beast” with $503.9 million, followed by “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” with $384.7 million. “CHIPS” was the first film from 2017 that I reviewed for this blog.
UPDATE: In the final totals for movies released in 2017, “CHIPS” earned a ride on the express elevator down to 106th position with moviegoers. Its final total didn’t increase after I reviewed the film and the anemic $18.6 million stands today, according to Box Office Mojo. I reviewed three other films from 2017: “Baywatch,” which I’ve already mentioned; the remake of “Going in Style” – click here for my review; and the sequel to “Jumanji” called “Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” – click here for my review.
Assorted cast and film notes (via IMDb.com):
- Here’s a piece of trivia about “CHIPS” that shows just how bad it can get: Shepard is supposed to have wanted Brad Pitt to play the D’Onofrio character. Right. He might have wanted it, but he sure wasn’t going to get it. Pitt can read and this screenplay stinks (that’s my comment, not com).
- Shepard, Duhamel and Bell were together in the film “When in Rome.”
- Directly from IMDb.com: “Dax Shepard did most of his own stunts, including the nose wheelie during the training test.”
- Shepard and Bell have been married for nearly four years and have two children together.
- Finally and directly from IMDb.com: “After the trailer debuted, a rumor stated that Erik Estrada, star of the original CHiPs (1977), blasted the trailer as ‘pure trash.’ Estrada later tweeted he never said that, and said, ‘Just watched the CHIPS trailer and laughed. Dax Shepard and Michael Peña are great. Cool stunts too.’” My comment: He obviously hadn’t seen any more than the trailer. I’d say he wound up using “pure trash” after seeing it (if he did actually choose to see it). He might have also used “pure s*%&.”
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