Starring: Michael Pena, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio, Kristen Bell, Adam Brody, Richard T Jones, Rosa Salazar, Ryan Hansen, Jane Kaczmarek, Justin Chatwin, Maya Rudolph, Josh Duhmael
Directed By: Dax Shepard
PLOT: I guess it’s based on the TV show CHIPS, but I never watched that show so I have no idea how closely based it is. Panch (Pena) is actually an undercover FBI agent from Miami looking for dirty cops, who is partnered with a rookie (Shepard) who used to be an X-Games athlete with a specialty of being able to ride a motorcycle really well. So naturally, he’s now a motorcycle cop.
What Works: I don’t feel the need to follow a large group of critics down a rabbit hole. They’ve been absolutely shitting on CHIPS. 16% on Rotten Tomatoes? Brutal. I didn’t hate it, nor did I hate myself for watching it. Is it a good film? Not really. I just didn’t think it was nearly as bad as some had suggested. Michael Pena is fully committed to this role, and I actually thought he did a lot to save the film. It’s nice to see Pena do comedy, because he’s actually really funny. He’s a very versatile, underrated actor. Shepard basically plays the same character he always plays. I laughed a few times. I thought the overall plot was pretty standard, and I didn’t have a problem with the general plot of the film. Also, this film looks somewhat competently directed by Shepard, whose last film, Hit and Run, was an absolute fucking atrocity to cinema. I gave that film an F, by the way. Here, he actually has a film that looks like a film meant to be released in theatres, and not something that looks barely finished enough to be on home video.
What Doesn’t Work: Most of the supporting cast sleepwalks through their scenes. Some big names are wasted, like Maya Rudolph, who is only in one scene. Some of the jokes don’t land, and there are prolonged sequences where our protagonists stop in the middle of an investigation to talk about really dumb shit, like eating ass. Pena is supposed to be a legitimately good FBI agent, who is just a little off the rails, but as the film progresses, he doesn’t seem smart at all. Some parts of this film feel like the jokes were pitched between a few friends in that whole “wouldn’t it be funny if…”, and I’m sure it was funny to them at the time, but to the majority of us… no. It didn’t work. Also, while I have no problem with the general plot itself, the structure and execution is awful. It’s like every piece of information has to be oddly dropped in conversation so they can call back to it later. There’s this weird exchange between Hansen and Shepard where Hansen fanboys all over Shepard and talks about his cousin who also was an X-Games athlete. Low and behold, that’s actually a very important plot point that will come back at the end. Of course it was, because who the fuck would recognize an X-Games motorcycle athlete? This film is so bad at it, it almost seems like the screenplay was written around the plot points, with each scene being absolutely necessary in order to reveal something they could call back on later. It does it poorly, and everything is obvious.
Final Word: I guess, at the end of the day, I would have ended up giving this a rotten score too. So I would have ended up in the same boat of critics who contributed to a 16%. However, I don’t think that 16% is representative of the actual quality of the film. Sure, most of it isn’t good, but there are a lot of films out there that are a lot worse. It’s not the worst film this year, and since I had no hopes for it, I wasn’t even disappointed that it wasn’t very good. I wasn’t angry at it, because I didn’t really expect much. I basically got what I expected, which ended up being a very mediocre comedy, with a few bright spots, but a few more dismal spots. I can’t really recommend this, but it’s also not bad enough for me to stop you from watching it.
Final Grade: C