CHIPS (2017)

*. I never saw a single episode of the television show CHiPs, which ran from 1977 to 1983. I don’t know if that’s because I wasn’t interested or because it was never on at a time when it was convenient. As a result, I have no opinion on how faithful this movie –whose title is CHIPS, not CHiPs — is to its source, or how effective a parody it is. I knew enough to recognize Erik Estrada in his cameo at the end, but aside from that I went in to it cold.
*. I don’t think it makes any difference as this seems to be a very free adaptation, more along the lines of the comic send-ups of television series that became popular after Starsky and Hutch. Think The A-Team, 21 Jump Street and Baywatch. None of these original series were comedies, but the movies were. It was the age of irony and hipster humour, which was fine because there was nothing about the originals that was worth treating as sacred anyway.
*. The results have been disappointing. CHIPS isn’t quite as bad as critics made it out to be — I personally enjoyed it more than Baywatch — but it’s not very good either. I got a couple of chuckles out of the two crudest moments: the face-crotch collision and when Baxter gets a face full of kitty litter. Aside from these I didn’t get any laughs, but I didn’t find it a desperately un-funny movie or offensive. Michael Peña is fine as Ponch and some of the material at least had potential. I liked the arguing between the two leads using the language of therapy, for example. No laughs there either, but it was kind of fun.
*. That is, however, all I can say that this movie has going for it. The rest of it is limp. Most of the blame has to placed at the feet of Dax Shepard. Shepard has a goofy appearance but he’s not a funny guy, and since he wrote, directed and plays one of the leads here that’s a problem.
*. In addition to not being funny the story struck me as being impossible to follow. Who was the gang robbing? Who all was in on it? Why introduce the business about buying modern art as a way to move the cash? Nothing is done with this later.
*. I have nothing against crude comedy, and as I say I didn’t find anything offensive about CHIPS. Some people found it homophobic but I thought all that stuff was just a joke. What I did find disconcerting though was how violent and indeed downright sadistic a movie it is. One gang member is decapitated. Ponch has three of his fingers severed. A group of paparazzi are struck by a rampaging RV. All of this is played for laughs, which is a serious misjudgment. Again, there’s nothing offensive about it, but it isn’t funny either, even in a shock-humour sort of way.
*. That’s the best I can do. It’s not a good movie but it’s not worth getting upset about either. It will soon be forgotten, if it hasn’t been already.

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