If you grew up in the late 70s/early 80s, odds are you have seen at least one episode of CHIPS. After all the series lasted for 6 seasons, and was one of the most popular on TV during its run. If you liked the series, or even if you didn’t, you can’t go into the new movie based on the series thinking it will be the same. It’s very different, and other than the fact that it’s based around the California Highway Patrol, and has characters of the same name, you really can’t compare the two.
After an armored car heist costs a police officer his life, an FBI agent is sent undercover on the California Highway Patrol as Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello (Michael Peña) to investigate and find the crooked police officers suspected to be involved. He’s teamed with rookie officer Jon Baker (Dax Shepard), a retired stunt bike rider, and while the two don’t get along at first, they quickly learn to trust and rely on one another. After all, their lives depend on it.
At first CHIPS has a difficult time trying to find its footing. For the first 30 minutes or so it can’t really decide if it wants to be a comedy, a parody of the original TV show (or other cop shows), or an action flick. It’s almost as awkward of an experience as Ponch and Baker’s relationship as they try to work together. When it does manage to define itself though, the film starts to become interesting, and the jokes funnier. It’s a good thing Peña’s Ponch doesn’t keep the chip on his shoulder throughout the entire film, otherwise this review would have gone an entirely different way. As it was he was annoying at the start, but fun later on. Shepard is always good at playing the slightly off center, somewhat lovable dolt, and like usual he plays the same character. At this stage in his career it’s doubtful he will ever try pushing himself to play something different. Choosing Vincent D’Onofrio to play the main villain was a great casting choice as well, and like usual he manages to add real stakes to the film.
CHIPS is the sort of film you really should give a chance to, but one you don’t need to rush out and see. The action is fun, the jokes will either have you rolling your eyes or laughing loudly, and it never takes itself too seriously. Unfortunately it’s also the type of film that won’t get a lot of attention, and probably slip through the cracks. And whatever you don’t, don’t make the mistake of thinking it will be anything like the TV show.