Oh my god! What a stupid, beautiful movie. I was having a rotten day before I watched CHIPS, but its explosion-heavy, progressive-bro comedy motored my frown upside down. That’s a dumb thing to say, but this is a dumb movie.
The latest in a series of nostalgic television-to-film incarnations, CHIPS is based on the popular 70s TV show of the same name (the TV show had slightly fussier capitalization). The concept of a level-headed rookie and a super-sexy superior officer ridin’ motorcycles ’n’ solvin’ crimes remains the core: Michael Peña’s FBI agent goes undercover as Frank “Ponch” Poncherello to root out some corrupt California Highway Patrol officers. He’s partnered with a new recruit—former motocross star Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), whose focus is on trying to salvage his marriage (to Shepard’s real-life wife, Kristen Bell!) through California Highway Patrol ticketing. Sparks fly!
I have no doubt that Shepard, who also wrote and directed CHIPS, has a lot of love for the original CHiPs, but this reboot is much more a Dax Shepard movie than an homage to a ‘70s TV show. That works in the movie’s favor. Shepard won hearts and minds with his 2012 car chase relationship comedy Hit and Run, which featured Shepard performing his own stunts. That same approach of crunchy, real-life motorcycle riding is evident in CHIPS. The action scenes (there are many, and there are even more explosions) are tangible and natural, allowing the humor to take a more central position.
Hit and Run also employed a bizarre style of dialogue in which characters yelled their feelings and grievances at one another while speeding down highways or fighting in open fields. That same vibe is all over CHIPS: Ponch and Baker psychoanalyze each other’s quirks in a hilarious kind of enlightened dude one-upmanship. It’s not always pretty, and your favorite characters aren’t always saying the smartest things, but they also seem willing to hash it out and learn. At least in CHIPS world, a person can be macho and still try hard to learn to respect other people. More than anything, that was what I loved about this film. Well, that, and the unabashed joy of seeing motorcycles plow through a bunch of bouncy castles.