There’s something about this decade where anything older than ten gets a gritty remake, and the 70’s cop show CHiPs is no exception. But unlike most gritty remakes seen today, the new CHIPS is a raunchy comedic update, not another Zack Snyder-styled bore that attempted to be darker than The Dark Knight.
To weed out corrupt elements in the California Highway Patrol (i.e. CHiPs), gung-ho FBI agent Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Pena) goes undercover in the highway patrol group. There, Frank is forced to team-up with his new partner, Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) – a naïve daredevil who just wants to do the right thing. Together, the two must overcome their differences to solve the case and turn their mundane lives around.
Having never watched the original CHiPs, I entered this remake with no nostalgic investment to speak of. Frankly speaking, my only knowledge of the show is that its star Erik Estrada cameoed in the educational masterpiece (read: hilarious trainwreck) that is Cool Cat Saves the Kids. That being said, CHIPS was a lot better than I expected, but it’s no masterpiece of raunch and dick jokes.
Stepping to The Bad Side
CHIPS takes the 21 Jump Street approach to its revival: by inserting as much sexual humor and cursing into what used to be a TV-friendly show. But instead of looking forced or juvenile, CHIPS shows off its comedic bad side through well timed delivery and jokes that lack the self-indulgence of every Seth Rogen “comedy” ever made.
You know a comedy’s doing its job when it makes people laugh at an in-depth debate about eating ass.
While crass, CHIPS never goes overboard and avoids being repetitive. The sexual jokes may be as frequent as the punctuation marks in this review, but they never kill the mood. It also helps when the cast is having a blast by going wild with the dialogue and the cussing. The chemistry of the main duo is both fun and touching in some parts, while the side characters also have their own moments – though it would have been better if the female characters had more purpose than being romantic interests or fanservice.
In a time when almost every remake is watered down for kids, it was refreshing to see a remake like CHIPS appeal to the adults. CHIPS knows its target audience, and gives them exactly what they want: lewd humor written under the influence of alcohol and other questionable substances. There’s also a minimal amount of characters painfully stating the obvious or citing too many pop culture references, so CHIPS deserves credit for avoiding these trademarks of lazy screenwriting. These jokes are present, but they never overstay their welcome.
CHIPS works as a comedy, but it was advertised as a buddy-cop comedy. While its buddy-comedy aspect works, CHIPS flounders in the police part of its story – and the cast’s snazzy police uniforms are not enough to compensate for this flaw.
Gross Procedural Incompetence
The best buddy-cop comedies never forget the other part of the subgenre’s label, meaning that there’s a healthy balance of cop-themed hijinks and actual crime solving. CHIPS, on the other hand, gets so caught up in its phallic allegories that its central case is forgotten, except during the most convenient moments possible.
On its own, the case is generic at best, and the corruption scandal is merely glossed over rather than fully developed. Case in point, the criminals in question are so bland and forgettable that their entire motivation could be lazily summed up in one word. Even stranger is how serious these criminals are, with even a hint of tragedy being given to their boss. In a comedy where one of its main characters is a confirmed sex addict, it was jarring to see the antagonists (and by extension, their actors) take their jobs so seriously. To describe this particular gang of crooks as misplaced is beyond rhetorical.
The worst part is not just how predictable the case is, but how the movie literally doesn’t care about it. Not even 20 minutes in, and CHIPS immediately reveals the major conspirators and the overall mastermind while its main characters struggle to have a polite conversation. Because of this, there are no stakes to speak of, and the biggest concern in CHIPS is when the good guys collar the criminals, not how they do it.
How CHIPS expected audiences to be compelled by a relatively short, ninety-minute-long police case that’s solved right away, I’m sure I don’t know.
It could be argued that CHIPS prioritized the penis references over serious police matters, and this assessment shows. Thanks to this, the corrupt officers comes off as a subplot that could have been cut from what is essentially a compilation of skits starring two incompetent cops. Whereas similar movies like Bad Boys or Lethal Weapon expertly balanced the police work and the comedic bickering, CHIPS feels like it’s obligated to have a criminal case in a movie that stars cops.
Bromance On Motorcycles
Though the narrative of CHIPS leaves a lot to be desired, it’s not a total loss. From start to finish, CHIPS knew how to have a good time and serves the laughs at a well-paced rate, even if it follows the genre’s standards to the letter without trying to do anything new. Just take note that CHIPS is the kind of comedy that may not be for everybody.
CHIPS, to put it simply, is an ode to the hedonistic Frat Bro lifestyle that reeks of too much beer, testosterone and macho insecurity, and this will rub some people the wrong way. Know what you’re getting into when watching CHIPS to avoid annoyance or disappointment.
While I cannot speak for fans of the original show, CHIPS succeeded as an entertaining enough ride for newcomers such as myself. CHIPS is the kind of forgettable bro-centric comedy that suffers from toxic masculinity that I could tolerate at best, but it’s still something I’d watch with some friends while drunk off our asses.