Film Review: CHiPs (MA15+) (USA, 2017) seldom earns its comedy tag

After proving himself a competent director and screenwriter with the rather modest (at least in comparison) action/comedy Hit & Run in 2012, Dax Shepard unfortunately fails to pair the aforementioned genres together again with CHiPs, an extremely loose adaptation of the popular 1977 television series, which attempts to blend sordid humour with high-grade action and frustratingly fumbles in the process.

With every scene in the film feeling less like a coherent continuation of one another and more a slapdash effort to include as many inexplicable conversations and motorcycle sequences as possible, sporadically does CHiPs feel like a completed project.  It can’t be denied that Shepard knows how to stage vehicular mayhem though, so when the film opts to take the action route and we are treated to a slew of relatively well-executed bike sequences, the film almost appears as if it works on the most basic of levels.  Sadly, the necessity for plot development via dialogue weighs the movie down, with very little of the supposedly humorous banter earning successful execution.

Homosexual panic, chronic masturbation and anilingus tend to be the subject matter Shepard hopes to get mileage out of in between his goofy rookie highway patrol officer Baker and Michael Pena‘s undercover FBI agent Ponch uncovering a team of crooked cops in the California Highway Patrol unit following  a string of armoured car robberies.  Adding insult to injury is reliable talent like Vincent D’Onofrio phoning in as the formidable villain, with his overtly serious delivery feeling like it belongs in another film entirely.

Aside from a few minor throwaway line deliveries (Adam Brody‘s police officer’s pronunciation of the word “phone” being unexpectedly hilarious) seldom does CHiPs earn its comedy tag, instead functioning mildly serviceably as an actioner, and a somewhat violent one at that too with a surprising decapitation moment solidifying the film’s adult rating.

While CHiPs unfortunately highlights Shepard’s weakness in crafting a moderately budgeted passion project, it does showcase his ability to stage an action moment with precision and visibility.  Perhaps if CHiPs followed suit and was more action and less comedy, his clout as a reliable filmmaker would be in much less jeopardy than it is following this underwhelming vehicle.

Review Score: TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

CHiPs is in cinemas today.