CHiPs movie review: A buddy cop film that severely under delivers on comedy
There’s always one film every year that descends into crass lowbrow comedy, promises some off kilter guilty pleasure time at the cinema but ultimately underwhelms. This year CHiPs takes the not so coveted position and supremely under delivers on the comedic front.
Written, directed by and starring Dax Shepard, CHiPs a buddy cop comedy that reminds us why the genre has fizzled out over the last decade. The jokes mostly don’t work, the nastiness is amped up to compensate for the lack of quality comedy and the plot contains little ingenuity to maintain your interest levels. Shepard is John, a newbie at the California Highway Patrol who is under pressure to deliver, and is partnered with the cocky chick magnet Poncherello (Michael Pena), who is actually an undercover FBI officer. Predictably, they are two extremely different personalities and often clash to create comedic situations, and ultimately team up to solve a case.
The problem with the film is that it follows the buddy cop formula too slavishly. So you get tired one liners, failed attempts at humor mined from the difference between the two cops, misunderstandings, awful misogynist jokes and a large serving of shock value. It would have been fine had at least one of those elements were effective but it becomes quite frustrating to see a by the numbers comedy which doesn’t land a single well-earned laugh. When the biggest attempt at making the audience laugh is the main character’s addiction to masturbation you know you’re watching a rejected skit on Saturday Night Live.
The film is based on a television show of the same name, and while I’m not familiar with the source material, this film gives little reason to care. An irritating aspect of the film is that the central crime plot is executed with deadly seriousness – which is jarring considering everything else in the film is goofy and juvenile. The secondary cast, including Kristen Bell as John’s bimbo wife and Vincent D’Onofrio as a corrupt cop are wasted in thankless cash grabby roles.
There’s also a prevalent undercurrent of mean spirited behavior in every layer of the film, making you wonder why any filmmaker would think watching horrible people constantly do horrible things would be a funny experience. One of the lead characters is a Motocross expert so we get a couple of interesting bike chase scenes that give you a tour of LA but they are not enough to anchor the flailing narrative, and because the stakes are so low you will tend not to care.
In a day and age when films like 21 Jump Street lampoon the action comedy buddy cop genre it’s hard to watch a film that does not attempt to do something new with it. For a more interesting take on a similar subject you’re better off watching last year’s War on Everyone which also has Pena in the lead role as a weird cop.