You know how when you’re skipping around cable stations, and you stop on TNT or FX and they’re showing a movie that you kind of forgot about, but it’s interesting enough that you stay on it for a couple minutes and think “yeah, this is alright.” You know those types of movies I’m talking about? You’re aware that they exist, but seem to entirely miss them in theaters without even trying, and then like four years later you come across copies of the DVD being sold for five dollars in one of those large wire discount bins at a gas station. You know what I mean? Well CHiPs is the latest addition to this very specific subgenre of mediocrity.
Inexplicably written and directed by Dax Shepard of all people, CHiPs is yet another hard-R buddy comedy adaptation of an old TV show, in the vein of 21 Jump Street, Starskey and Hutch, and the upcoming Baywatch. While nowhere near as intelligent or creative as either of the Jump Street movies, CHiPs is entertaining enough to fill an hour and a half, with a couple chuckles here and there and some interesting-enough action set pieces and chase scenes thrown in for good measure. It’s not an especially glowing endorsement, but considering how unwatchable the trailers made it seem, I was pleasantly surprised by how okay-ish CHiPs turned out to be.
The film tells the mismatched-cops-who-learn-to-accept-their-differences-and-be-bros story we’ve seen a thousand times before with a relatively straight face. Most of the humor (however unsuccessful it may be) comes from the actions taken by the buddy cop duo (Shepard and Michael Pena) as opposed to from them being a buddy cop duo. This is the key critical difference between CHiPs and Jump Street. The film is still raunchy enough to earn its R rating and disregard the intentions of the original series, but not bold enough to ever satirize it. Fortunately, though, Shepard keeps the film moving at a pretty fast pace. That, coupled with his on-screen chemistry with Pena, makes this a watchable, if uninspired, middle-of-the-road action movie. High speed chases and motorcycle stunts that are competently filmed will always be at least a little interesting, and this movie gets that right as well.
As for the “comedy” part of this action-comedy… it’s honestly very weird how many of the jokes in CHiPs don’t land. There’s a lot of questionable, dated, and easy shots taken in the movie that I suppose were going for shock laughs, but instead just felt tone-deaf and out of touch. Gay-panic jokes without a satirical slant just can’t fly anymore, and this movie spends a great deal of time proving that point.
The cast is fine, I suppose. Shepard and Pena both play well off of each other and make their scenes together pretty fun to watch despite their less-than-comedic dialogue. Vincent D'Onofrio seems to be exerting the minimum amount of effort required to make his villain anything other than physically imposing, which is disappointing since just this past fall he gave such a great character performance in The Magnificent Seven. He very much still has the ability to transform himself and wow an audience, but he seems to just pick and choose when to make an effort. So, much like he did in Jurassic World, he decided not to be interesting here. Kristen Bell is also in this movie, which is a decision I would question if I didn’t know she was married to Dax Shepard. I suppose they got to have fun filming together, even if he didn’t write her a very good part.
Ultimately, CHiPs is just an incredibly underwhelming movie. It did not have to be made, and there is next to nothing in it that stands out or is at all memorable. It’s not bad. Really, it isn’t. I watched the whole thing and had no problem doing so. The issue is that it also isn’t very good. CHiPs is a movie that was made and is fine. That’s really all there is to say about it.