‘CHIPS’ a Mostly Unfunny, Mean-Spirited Reboot

Chips_film_posterNot every television-to-film reboot can be a “Jump Street…”

“CHIPS” is based on the TV series that ran from 1977 to 1983 and just like the show follows the adventures of two California Highway Patrol officers (Dax Shepard and Michael Peña). After a series of armored truck robberies, the duo must find out who on the inside of the police department is dirty. Vincent D’Onofrio, Adam Brody, Rosa Salazar, Vida Guerra and Kristen Bell also star as Shepard writes and directs.

I don’t mind Dax Shepard as an actor when he has small roles in things, but his first two writing/directorial efforts “Brother’s Justice” and “Hit and Run” are both awful films. Here he is clearly trying to replicate the success “21 Jump Street” enjoyed, taking an innocent TV drama from the 80s and turning it into an R-rated comedy, however as a writer he isn’t funny enough and as a director he isn’t clever enough to make the transition worth it.

The film features its fair share of B-list actors, almost all of them besides Shepard and Peña simply being glorified if not full-fledged cameos. From Vincent D’Onofrio to Shepard’s real life wife Kristen Bell to “Malcom in the Middle’s” Jane Kaczmarek (I found minor amusement in the fact the other “Malcom” parent, Bryan Cranston, also has a movie coming out this weekend), there is some smile-worthiness in seeing a familiar face pop up, but it’s but a minor distraction from the stale and recycled material they’re given to say and do.

Peña is usually warm and charming in his roles, and some of that bleeds through here, but Shepard writes his character so mean-spirited that it almost comes across as awkward because Peña is normally such a likable guy that him yelling at Shepard for no reason just seems unnatural. The two don’t really share too much chemistry, and go from arguing to seemingly being lifelong buddies at the drop of a hat. The one actor and performance that gives the film some redemption is Rosa Salazar. She’s happy and sly and seems like a person you’d want to hang out with, and scenes with her are certainly the film’s best.

The plot doesn’t really matter in a project like this, but even by those low-hanging standards the film doesn’t meet expectations. There’s no mystery as to who is committing the robberies as their faces are shown in the opening sequence, and you never really feel any sense of tension or need to bring them to justice.

I’m usually pretty easy on comedies. If the film is funny, I give it a grain-of-salt recommendation because the main point of a comedy is to make people laugh; if it turns out to be a good, clever movie on top of that, it’s a bonus. But I didn’t laugh enough in “CHIPS” is make it worth even a DVD watch. Most of it is standard lazy R-rated sex and gay jokes, which I have no problem with if they’re clever and, again, funny. But everything here is lowbrow, with the punchline being something involving the f-bomb or genitalia.

I should note: comedy is subjective and the man seated next to me was on the verge of tears for a lot of the film, so there is an audience for this type of humor. I’m just clearly not it.

“CHIPS” never tries to be high art, and Shepard’s affection for fast cars and complicated stunts are put on display in a few scenes (most of the film’s $25 million budget went to cranes, wires and explosions I’m sure), but that doesn’t excuse his lazy script and mundane direction. Even the Los Angeles setting isn’t properly taken advantage of and put on display, and if you’ve read my reviews you know that’s an easy way to score brownie points from me. It’s not painfully bad and it goes by at a breezy enough pace, but there are better comedies out there than “CHIPS” and much more competent reboots/reimagings, so you shouldn’t go spend your money on something like this that’s mildly arresting at best.

Critics Rating: 3/10

Warner Bros.

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