Considering that movie versions of such popular 70s shows as Starsky & Hutch and The Dukes of Hazzard were successful in the mid-2000s, it's a bit surprising that it took this long for a CHIPS movie to come along. I've never seen a single episode of the "CHIPS" television series that ran from 1977 to 1983, so I had no expectations, good or bad, when the announcement was made that a big screen version of the show would be coming out. As the buddy comedy genre is my favorite, and I've always liked Dax Shepard and Michael Pena, I decided to check it out, despite the bad reviews and minimal box office results. While no classic, CHIPS delivers what one expects from a standard R-rated action buddy comedy: lots of gunfire, bickering and bantering, swearing, and good lines along the way.
I'm not going to deny that CHIPS is a juvenile movie. A lot of the sexual humor seems pretty forced, although some of it, like the yoga pants jokes, had me laughing out loud. It's easy to see why critics are tearing the film apart. The film is often little more than crude jokes and motorcycle chases. However, when the movie works, it is as entertaining as any film I've seen so far this year. The chemistry between Dax Shepard as Baker and Michael Pena as Ponch goes a long way in terms of making up for some of the flaws in the script. Without any chemistry between the two leads, this could have been a disaster, but Shepard and Pena seem to genuinely like each other, and their characters' eventual friendship feels genuine. It also helps that, although there are certainly over-the-top situations and sequences in CHIPS, the characters themselves are never treated as completely cartoonish or overly heightened just for the sake of comedy.
When action does take place in CHIPS, there is bloodshed and people get hurt. This could have easily created an awkward, uneven tone with all the comedy and cheap jokes, but as the writer/director, Dax Shepard somehow keeps the whole thing afloat. He avoids making the entire affair turn into a total mess, something that it could have if put into the wrong hands. The action scenes aren't particularly bombastic or even that long, probably a result of a lower budget than most action pictures have. That said, the action and chase scenes are well shot. They are also thankfully not dependent on over-editing and shaky cam like so many action pictures are today. Maybe the movie could have had a few more action beats with a larger budget, though what's on screen should please fans of car chases, stunts, and shoot-outs.
CHIPS sometimes feels like footage has been edited down from a longer running time. Kristen Bell, featured prominently in the advertising and opening credits, is in the film for what seems like little more than an extended cameo. Additionally, there seems to be sub-plots focusing on other CHIPS officers that have been cut down. I don't know if there is a large amount of deleted scenes missing from the final cut; there just seems to be a few gaps in between certain spots. Maybe this is the result of some bad editing, but none of this takes away all that much from my overall enjoyment of the film itself. It will be interesting to see whether the DVD/Blu Ray release contains much additional footage.
CHIPS is not perfect. It's probably not going to end up as my favorite comedy of 2017, though it is good fun for those who enjoy buddy movies. All the cop comedy clichés are here. No one is going to accuse CHIPS of being original or ground-breaking. It's simply an entertaining 100 minutes of action and comedy. Recommended. 7/10
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