by Lachlan Anderson
Rated M. Starring Dax Shepard, Michael Pena, Rosa Salazar, Adam Brody. Directed by Dax Shepard.
Hollywood’s age of the adaptation charges on unabated with the release of CHiPs, Writer/Director/Actor Dax Shepard’s movie version of the popular 80s TV show about California Highway Patrol Cops.
Don Baker (Shepard) is a former motocross champion whose body is riddled with various injuries and who has fallen on hard times. In a bid to impress his wife he becomes a California Highway Patrol Officer and is assigned to his partner “Ponch” (Pena) who is secretly an FBI agent undercover investigating a string of robberies carried out by crooked cops. Ponch and Baker have to separate the dirty cops from the clean, whilst figuring out how to operate as a good partnership.
Unlike recent remakes like 21 Jump Street, CHiPs is perhaps a movie that simply didn’t need to be made. Subtlety is definitely not on offer here. It relies on a lot of jokes that don’t land, usually built around either Ponch’s sex addiction or Baker’s injuries and subsequent pill addiction. There was potential here for something clever but it plays more like the typical over the top Hangover-esque comedy we’ve seen so many times now. And this is all to disguise a generic plot, with some moderately cool high-speed bike chases.
It’s not all terrible though. It’s very cool to see Adam Brody (The O.C) around again and getting some of the best laughs of the film simply by getting shot. A lot.
What is interesting though is that neither character makes any major change in their behaviour by the end of the film. They’ve come to like one another and be pretty good at their job, but their issues are still very much there. It’s not particularly heartening that topics like their addictions are used for cheap laughs and then not really dealt with. Even the motives of the villains of the film are murky at best. It’s bad people doing bad things but they push the empathy levels just high enough for us not to entirely side against them. It’s worth questioning what the filmmakers are saying by keeping the morals of all of the characters so very murky, particularly in a light-hearted police film.
The Verdict: Cheap laughs and a generic script don’t do this remake any favours. It’s enjoyable at times but it does come across as a film that really didn’t need to be made. 2/5
CHiPs is now showing in cinemas worldwide.