Taste­less ‘jokes’ mean the Chips are down for TV cop show re­boot

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Chips Di­rec­tor: Dax Shep­ard Stars: Dax Shep­ard, Michael Peña, Vin­cent D’Onofrio

was a whole­some TV show in the 1970s and 1980s, about the ad­ven­tures of two Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers. They were a cou­ple of hon­est, good-na­tured guys who em­bod­ied Cal­i­for­nia cool with their po­lice mo­tor­cy­cles and mir­rored sun­glasses, solv­ing prob­lems, catch­ing crim­i­nals and bright­en­ing days ev­ery­where. Reimag­ined by writer, di­rec­tor, pro­ducer and star Dax Shep­ard, the big-screen re­boot is a tawdry, testos­terone-fu­elled tale built around jokes about the male anatomy and the end­less eval­u­a­tion of women’s ap­pear­ances.

The main char­ac­ters dis­cuss the looks of al­most every fe­male char­ac­ter. Mak­ing such re­marks a ma­jor part of a movie’s hu­mour is re­duc­tive and gross, not to men­tion out­dated and unin­spired.

The best thing about the film is the clas­sic south­ern Cal­i­for­nia scenery and some su­perb mo­tor­cy­cle stunts.

But over­all, the film pro­vokes un­com­fort­able eye-rolls. Shep- ard and co- star Michael Peña have plenty of charm, but not enough to over­come the fee­ble story and taste­less jokes.

The film opens with the words “the Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol does not en­dorse this film – at all”. It is easy to see why.

Shep­ard is Jon Baker, a mo­tocross champ try­ing to rein­vent him­self and save his mar­riage by join­ing the po­lice force.

The 40-year-old rookie is paired with Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Peña), who is ac­tu­ally an un­der­cover FBI agent look­ing for crooked of­fi­cers. But this ver­sion of Jon and Ponch are so in­ept, and so dis­tracted by “hot chicks” and pseudo-philo­soph­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions about “ho­mo­pho­bia” and “clo­sure”, that buy­ing them as law en­force­ment is too much of a stretch. They are more like frat guys do­ing cos­play.

Blokeish hu­mour is one thing, but this is just dumb. One re­peated gag in­volves Shep­ard in his un­der­pants and Peña’s dis­com­fort at be­ing around his near-naked part­ner.

That kind of low­brow stu­pid­ity could be redeemed by a strong story or well-de­vel­oped char­ac­ters, but Chips of­fers nei­ther.

Ponch and Jon are car­i­ca­tures, and even the crime they are in­ves­ti­gat­ing lacks punch be­cause the crooks’ mo­ti­va­tions are never ex­plained.

The ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women here is bru­tal. Ponch lusts af­ter them all the time.

Even the po­lice chief, played by Jane Kacz­marek ( Mal­colm in the Mid­dle), is re­duced to an ob­ject as Ponch and Jon dis­cuss her body. Only Maya Ru­dolph, who makes a brief cameo, es­capes ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion.

Made be­fore the United States elected a president, whose crude re­marks about women in­spired a na­tion­wide con­ver­sa­tion about “locker-room talk”, there is no short­age of such at­ti­tudes to­wards women in Chips.

The tele­vi­sion se­ries was from a dif­fer­ent era, ad­mit­tedly, but af­ford­ing ba­sic re­spect re­gard­less of looks or gen­der is time­less.

Sandy Co­hen / AP

Warner Bros via AP Photo

From left, Michael Peña, Kris­ten Bell and Dax Shep­ard in Chips.

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