When Dax Shepard (This is Where I Leave You) talks about seeing and liking the Rick Rosner-created show CHiPs of the late 1970s/early 1980s when he was a kid, I guess I can get it. And to a point, where he was so inspired to make a movie version of the show that he starred, wrote and directed the film, I can get that too. Past that, things get a little bit murky.
Shepard plays Jon, the role that made Larry Wilcox a household name to people back in the day. The 2017 Jon is an X-Games motorcycle racing dude who's broken countless bones and finds himself on the outs of the circuit and decided to become a California Highway Patrolman. The 2017 Frank Poncherello is played by Michael Pena (Observe and Report), and Ponch is working undercover on an operation while maintaining a cover of Jon's partner. The reluctant partnership becomes a friendship as they try to fight a series of robberies being conducted by corrupt officers.
I think the most frustrating thing when it comes to CHiPs for me is that the premise was a pretty much foolproof one and then the script throws a whole bunch of crap at a wall and hopes it will stick. I watched the same show as Shepard did growing up and certainly didn't have a loyalty or devotion to a film stomping over a previous source material's mythology (let's be honest; that stuff happens more than we admit). But Shepard's script makes the film turns the characters and story into a mess from the word go that even in a vacuum the film is bad. But the protagonists apparently are painkiller abusers and masturbators in public bathrooms? I'm not repulsed, I'm trying to wonder why stuff like this was even considered funny.
The prime story about the crime ring is average, carried along by Vincent D'Onofrio (Birth of a Legend), and familiar faces like Adam Brody (Observe and Report) show up as Ponch's FBI officer, or Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle) as the police captain. As far as the stars go, Shepard is Shepard, which is to say one-dimensional and limited in range. Shepard's wife Kristen Bell (Bad Moms) shows up as Jon's ex-wife because OF COURSE SHE DOES, and Pena maxes out the limited comedic range of the content. For my money I think he's an underrated comic actor but the role here does him little favor. There is a cameo by one of the stars from the show to serve as a tie to history I guess, but I'd assert if that star knew what the previous 100 minutes were about, he'd have skipped it, and I wouldn't have blamed him.
To repeat, I'm of the position that, if there is a reboot of a film or a remake of a show into celluloid, at least make it worth the viewer's time somehow. Dax Shepard took CHiPs and made some weird, crude, unfunny buddy cop movie rife with things that Dax Shepard thinks is funny. And the universe of what Dax Shepard thinks is funny is a small one. Hell, CHiPs ‘99 may be better, even funnier, as far as movies about the California Highway Patrol go than this thing is.The Blu-ray:
Warner presents CHiPs with an AVC encode to go with its 1.85:1 high definition transfer and it looks fantastic generally. Colors look great (there are quite a few shots at sunset), shots in darker moments are ink deep and make for a great contrast, and image detail is great; you can point out body hair discernibly, even if it isn't a good thing! Blocking and haloing is minimal and the film looks great on Blu-ray for the most part.The Sound:
DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround rules the soundtrack and it gets a chance to show off in copious detail, whether it's motorcycles leaping through and over things and showing off effective channel panning early on, or the rainstorm during a scene later to help convey directional effects or immersion. The low-end is present in trucks roaring through a car chase, explosions and even music from a car stereo, and quieter moments are clear as can be. The movie is odious, but at least the technical packaging is impressive.Extras:
To go along with the standard def and digital copies of the film are several brief featurettes. "This is not your Dad's CHiPs" (9:04) discusses the genesis and concept for the film, as the cast discuss their roles and working with one another, and Shepard discusses his directing style. Stick around for Bell's interesting discussing of his writing style. "Practical Pursuit" (9:15) covers the driving and biking stunts and how they were shot and rehearsed, and "The Perfect Bike" (4:38) serves as a fluff piece on the Ducatis used in the film. 10 deleted scenes (10:19) come with optional introduction and include a strange and implausible alternate ending, but not much else.Final Thoughts:
It's not that the CHiPs movie is bad, it's just…wait, no, the CHiPs movie is bad. From a TV show fan perspective, from a storytelling perspective, from a cinematic point of existence perspective. I feel the worse for experiencing this. It's a jewel technically, but that's like saying the box that holds this pile of waste was wrapped impeccably. I know this doesn't stop people from doing remakes of old shows and movies, but can we at least limit it to Dax Shepard?