Tasteless ‘jokes’ mean the Chips are down for TV cop show reboot
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 Making such remarks a major part of a movie’s humour is reductive and gross, not to mention outdated and uninspired.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
From left, Michael Peña, Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard in Chips.