It’s no Jump Street.
Based on the 1977-83 TV series of the same name, CHIPS (the TV series was spelled “CHiPs”) is the latest in a very long line of comedic movie adaptations of more straightforward, classic cop shows (21 Jump Street, Starsky & Hutch, Dragnet).
The film is directed by and co-stars Dax Shepard as officer Jon Baker, an over-the-hill rookie with the California Highway Patrol who can’t let go of his X Games glory days. He is partnered with Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Pena), who is not exactly who he claims in a change that further differentiates the movie from its small screen inspiration.
Jon is both by the book and yet also unorthodox, while Ponch is all about pursuing his larger agenda (and serving his libido). As expected, conflict between these two differing styles ensues until, of course, a common enemy unites them.
Pena and Shepard have good chemistry together and the best parts of the movie are simply related to their dynamic, helping this overall lukewarm comedy work a bit better thanks to its leads’ sheer force of personality.
Daredevil’s Vincent D’Onofrio plays their foe. He brings a formidable physicality and old school, hardass attitude to his role, but the story does at least allow him a few shades of humanity, particularly when it comes to his screw-up son.
Shepard’s real-life wife Kristen Bell plays his ex here, someone he’s still pining after even though she’s clearly not worth it. Bell is basically playing a different, less developed version of her character from Forgetting Sarah Marshall; there’s not that much to her role beyond that.
CHIPS often tries too hard to be funny, its jokes never rising above the obvious and well-telegraphed. It also tries to have it both ways when it comes to a running joke about Ponch’s perceived homophobia, calling out the tropes and objectionable material even as it continues to double down on the very same offensive bits it’s calling out. CHIPS also tries to have a few twists and surprises related to certain characters’ loyalties, but it’s way too easy to figure out who are the disloyal cops.
Shepard concocts a few decently staged chase scenes and action set-pieces (if you can overlook a complete disregard for L.A.’s geography), but CHIPS is more about the jokes than the action.
Ultimately, there’s nothing about CHIPS that makes it distinct or particularly memorable, and the only real reason why the movie even exists seems to be because it is recognizable IP to a segment of the public over a certain age. It’s no 21 (or 22) Jump Street; it’s more of a Starsky & Hutch, a time-passer if you’re on a long flight or looking for something to Netflix one night.