A review by Nalini Haynes
40 years after the TV series started airing, a CHIPS movie hit screens — and the movie spoofs the TV series! Dax Shepard plays Jon Baker, a motorcyclist stuntman who’s had more accidents than I’ve had hot dinners (at least recently! J ). His wife has taken over their house, pushing him into the guest house while she’s flirting with — cough — ‘giving swimming lessons’ to the new man in her life. Baker thinks he might win her back if he becomes a cop because women, according to the much-counselled Baker, want someone like their dad. And her dad was a cop. QED. Also, Baker pops pills like there’s no tomorrow, all prescription and all ‘legit’ because dude has a titanium humorous bone and various other bits missing or broken.
‘Poncharella’ (Michael Peña) is a cover for an FBI agent investigating corruption in the CHiP department. This dude also shot his old partner, screws everything with a vagina and has no respect for anyone.
The bad guy is Vincent D’Onofrio who played, among other things, Fisk in Daredevil. He’s a good actor and an excellent villain but, with the beard, I just couldn’t place him. In the end I looked it up on IMDB so I could focus on the story.
The original white guy, Larry Wilcox, doesn’t make an appearance; the story is it wasn’t his thing and the makers ‘don’t even know him’. However, Erik Estrada, the original Ponch, puts in a cameo. As does Dax Shepard’s partner, Kristen Bell. Her character, Karen, is a total bitch so make of that what you will.
This movie takes my memories of the ‘family viewing’ series and bumps it up to ‘R’ (mostly for drugs with a little bit of gratuitous over-the-top violence thrown in). It’s been a very long time since I saw the original but it seems to me that the makers took the original series to a ‘logical’ extension, allowable only with a higher rating.
CHIPS doesn’t pass the Bechdel Test because it’s a story about men where women tend to be sex objects or love interests. And yet, the women seem to relate to Ponch like Lucifer’s sexual partners on Lucifer: they’re into it for the sex, equal partners, and no one is pining over Ponch. There are a number of people of colour in the movie, most notably Michael Peña, and there are some racist jokes but no inciting to violence. It’s dicks being dicks. The worst was ‘Asian Bob’, which was cringeworthy. Sancho (2003) reported on representation of people with disabilities; one aspect of this research focused on potential offensiveness and likelihood to incite violence. Here, I’ve applied Sancho’s analysis of representation to race relations. As CHIPS is comedy intended for a ‘late night’ audience and the characters involved are all fairly dickish (see Sancho’s comments concerning The Office), the overall negative affect of CHIPS on race relations is not positive but should not be too negative.
The new CHIPS is nearly as sexist as the old CHiPs with a few notable exceptions: the men are sexualised too: shirts off, butt out, etc. Baker disses Ponch for being homophobic, which is taken to an extreme … I kind of didn’t mind the guys ogling women’s butts in yoga pants because it was balanced with Baker and another cop wear tightey-whiteys and groin-bumping. In close up. Repeatedly. That kind of image isn’t my thing but I thought it balanced out the ogling. And there’s more but I won’t spoil it.
CHIPS is part original TV series, part spoof of the original, comedic, dark, silly, splodey and a bit too long. If this is your kind of comedy, you remember the original series or you’re into motorbikes, then you may enjoy this one. However, I think it could have been better if the writer, director and one of the main characters weren’t all the same person.
Rating: 2 ½ out of 5 stars
Director: Dax Shepard
Writer: Dax Shepard, Rick Rosner
Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Vincent D’Onofrio and lots more.