“CHIPS” a tawdry, sex­ist dis­ap­point­ment

The Denver Post - - LIFE & CULTURE - By Sandy Co­hen

Com­edy. Rated R. 101 min­utes.

“CHiPs” was a whole­some TV show in the 1970s and ’80s about two Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol of­fi­cers. They were a cou­ple of good-na­tured guys who em­bod­ied Cal­i­for­nia cool with their mo­tor­cy­cles and mir­rored sun­glasses, solv­ing prob­lems, catch­ing crim­i­nals and bright­en­ing days ev­ery­where.

Reimag­ined by writer, di­rec­tor, pro­ducer and star Dax Shep­ard, the big-screen “CHIPS” is a tawdry, testos­terone-fu­eled tale built around pe­nis jokes and end­less eval­u­a­tion of women’s ap­pear­ances.

The two main char­ac­ters dis­cuss the looks of al­most ev­ery woman on screen. Call­ing some­one “a 2” might be a for­giv­able comic mis­step, but mak­ing such re­marks a ma­jor part of a movie’s hu­mor is re­duc­tive and gross, not to men­tion out­dated and unin­spired. Maybe you need to look like Kris­ten Bell (Shep­ard’s wife, in real life and this film) or have a Y chro­mo­some to find it funny.

News flash: Women don’t ex­ist to be beau­ti­ful for men. Doesn’t ev­ery­one know that in 2017 — par­tic­u­larly Shep­ard, who has two young daugh­ters?

The best thing about “CHIPS” is some clas­sic South­ern Cal­i­for­nia scenery and su­perb mo­tor­cy­cle rid­ing, com­plete with stair­well tricks, air­borne stunts and long shots of that beloved mecca for lo­cal bik­ers, An­ge­les Crest High­way.

But over­all, the film is an un­com­fort­able eye­roll. Shep­ard and co-star Michael Pena have plenty of charm, but not enough to sup­port the fee­ble story and taste­less jokes.

The film opens with the Kris­ten Bell. in “CHIPS.” words “The Cal­i­for­nia High­way Pa­trol does not en­dorse this film — at all,” and it’s easy to see why.

Shep­ard is Jon Baker, a former mo­tocross champ try­ing to rein­vent him­self and save his mar­riage by join­ing the CHP. The 40year-old rookie is paired with Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Pena), an FBI agent work­ing un­der­cover to root out po­ten­tially crooked of­fi­cers within the CHP. But this Jon and Ponch are so in­ept, so dis­tracted by hot chicks and pseudo-philo­soph­i­cal con­ver­sa­tions about “ho­mo­pho­bia” and “clo­sure,” that buy­ing them as ac­tual law en­force­ment is too much of a stretch. They’re more like frat guys do­ing cos­play.

And guy hu­mor is one thing, but this is just dumb. One re­peated gag in­volves Shep­ard in his un­der­pants and Pena’s dis­com­fort at be­ing around his near-naked part­ner. “You face-planted my bag!” Jon says to Ponch.

That kind of low-brow 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’re in­ves­ti­gat­ing lacks punch be­cause the crooked cops’ mo­ti­va­tions are never ex­plained.

And the ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion of women here is bru­tal. There are sev­eral close­ups of women’s butts in yoga pants, and Ponch openly lusts af­ter them — so much that it’s a prob­lem and he has to quickly steal away to mas­tur­bate. I’m not kid­ding. Even the CHP chief, played by Jane Kacz­marek, is re­duced to an ob­ject: Ponch and Jon dis­cuss her body (“It was tight”) af­ter Ponch dis­cov­ers she’s se­cretly sex­crazed. (Of course she is.)

Only Maya Ru­dolph, who makes a brief cameo to re­unite with her “Idioc­racy” co-star, es­capes ob­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion. She is just a po­lice of­fi­cer who hap­pens to be fe­male. Josh Duhamel and the orig­i­nal Ponch, Erik Estrada, also make cameos, though un­for­tu­nately Estrada gets in on the lady lust.

Made be­fore the U.S. elected a pres­i­dent whose crude, caught-on-tape re­marks re­gard­ing women in­spired a na­tion­wide con­ver­sa­tion about “locker-room talk,” there’s no short­age of a “lock­er­room” tone to­ward women in “CHIPS.” That’s not just tired and un­funny, it’s po­ten­tially alien­at­ing to half the pop­u­la­tion.

The TV se­ries was from a dif­fer­ent era, to be sure, but af­ford­ing ba­sic re­spect re­gard­less of some­one’s looks or gen­der is time­less.

Dax Shep­ard, Michael Pena and Rosa Salazar in “CHIPS.”

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