By: Felix Felicis (Four Beers) –
March is the month nostalgia junk-punched America right in the teeth with not one, not two, but THREE throwbacks to a bygone era. And by bygone era, I mean one in which our country wasn’t imploding at the behest of an ego-maniacal cheeto puff… And also cell phones and the internet were in their infancy so you had two options after work/school: either read a book or watch a TV show/movie. I mean, you COULD go rogue and rob a bank but that was, like, way too much cardio. This month we saw the comeback of a live-action Beauty and The Beast (a pretty solid adaptation NOBODY TALK TO ME DURING “A TALE AS OLD AS TIME” DAMMIT) aka I’m Having Weird Feelings About ‘Beast’iality, The Power Rangers (get past the Bizarro World Breakfast Club schtick and it delivers a solid line of childhood nostalgia crack) and, unfortunately for me, a little-known television show from the 80’s reboot, CHiPS (no, not the kind that goes really good with guac). Slight spoilers ahead.
I honestly didn’t watch the original episodes of CHiPS when they were airing on television (mostly due the fact that I wasn’t alive yet) and I’ve since caught only a few on reruns but the original vibe seems to be a kind of odd couple-y kind of buddy cop comedy whereas the remake serves up more of a failed 21 Jump Street meets “no homo” stereotypical college bro-medy. This CHiPS serves up a weirdly psychoanalytical rookie highway patrolman, Jon Baker (aka Dax Shephard aka the writer/director/lead on this meh-fest) a failed ex-motocross rider who’s super by the book and awkwardly open about his ongoing marriage troubles paired with ladykiller and probable victim of childhood abuse due to his hyper-sexualization undercover FBI agent something something turned training officer Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. Watch Dick and Jane run! Watch Baker and Ponch solve a dirty-cop-crime-ring caper in under two hours!
This movie is watchable. Ish. The chemistry between Michael Pena (who SLAYED ME with his amazing character in Ant Man) and Dax Shepherd (who I want to like because in real life he and wife Kristen Bell are my #squadgoals but just end up tolerating) is wildly hit-or-miss and with a comedy banking 100% of its shot on that, the not-so-dynamic duo fall short. But I did laugh out loud a few times (with or at the movie I’ll never tell) and the motorcycle stunts/final boss fight were respectably badass.
Humor is subjective, but Dax Shepherd only swung at the lowest hanging fruit in this screenplay so we’re left with an almost subversively offensive movie. 21 Jump Street is everything CHiPS tried (and failed) to be; it has two buddy cop leads with insane bremisty (that’s bro chemistry) and a storyline chock-full of the absurd that rides the line on offensively stereotypical humor but with a razor-fine wire manages to juuuuust stay on the right side of satire whereas CHiPS is basically filled with clunky caricatures of people trying to sell a dick joke (no homo) but only if (no homo) you realize that they’re not (no homo) gay (no homo). I’d say that amidst the other humor bombs that failed to land (including maybe the worst gold digger Kristen Bell has ever had to play and the sex-addicted Ponch with deeply rooted psychological issues and a weakness for yoga pants), the biggest offender was a running gag on how much Ponch wasn’t homophobic while displaying an almost rabid desire to avoid anything even a little bit tangentially gay.
Speaking of terrible characters, CHiPS somehow managed to be both shallow AND obtuse while wasting some of the biggest talent out there. Kristen Bell? A gifted actor who’s proven she has what it takes to deliver a well-crafted comedy? *cough* Forgetting Sarah Marshall *cough* Here we have her as a similar yet exponentially more terrible human being playing a shrill, shallow gold-digger of an ex-wife who WOULDN’T EVEN VISIT HER ESTRANGED HUSBAND IN THE HOSPITAL AFTER A HORRIFIC ACCIDENT IN WHICH HE LITERALLY LEGALLY DIES FOR PROBABLY A MINUTE… And then she renders him homeless. Because we haven’t given up on humanity yet, CHiPS is here to help us lose that last shred of hope in the human race. Not to mention Vincent D’Onofrio, who elevated acting to an art form in season one of Netflix’s Daredevil and carried the show for me (seriously, I stopped watching mid-way through season two when I lost hope of the Kingpin’s return) is stuck in this mindless evil villain terminator-esque role because of only the thinnest brush strokes of plot development. This man is a master of his craft and I barely believed his motivations.
The more I think about this movie, the angrier I get because of the sloppy storytelling and non-sensical plot twists that make CHiPS a waste of time, space, and (hopefully) short term memory. In the moment I wanted to like it, I was primed to like it (and was willing to suspend the necessary disbelief to allow a goofy, popcorn comedy the leeway to entertain me) but, much like the internet’s obsession with Kim Kardashian’s decision to have another baby, I could not care less about it now that I’ve seen it. Everything in CHiPS is a victim of this Lays-y writing (you’re welcome for that pun) and makes getting from the beginning to the end of the film an exercise in patience from the obvious villains to the even more obvious red herring in shit-brown hot pants. The only way you’ll be surprised by any of the plot twists in this movie is if this is the first movie you’ve ever seen. Even then I’d give you a 50/50 shot at working it out by the end of the first act. Or just walking out.
Look elsewhere for tasty entertainment because this bag of CHiPS arrived half-baked and stale.
CHiPS (2017) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for every sext, sex act, and/or hyper-sexualized act by Ponch.
Take a Sip: anytime Ponch and Baker argue. Pace yourself.
Take a Drink: for each awkward way Baker manages to bring up his wife and/or marriage.
Do a Shot: whenever Baker does something insane on a motorcycle.
Shotgun your Beer: for that weirdly unnecessary cameo.