CHiPs review: a squalid, incoherent catastrophe of a reboot

There is not enough mouth rinse in Southern California to purge the aftertaste from CHiPs the movie

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Director: Dax Shepard
Cert: 15A
Genre: Comedy
Starring: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Jessica McNamee, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Kristen Bell, Maya Rudolph
Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins

Ah, CHiPs. It's startling to discover that the automotive cop show ran from 1977 all the way through to 1983. That's a lot of light humour and heavy pile-ups. Talking of car crashes, what better way to celebrate such a quaint series than with a squalid, incoherent catastrophe that makes one yearn for such relatively harmless entertainments as The A Team film? There is not enough mouth rinse in Southern California to fully purge the aftertaste.

Adaptations of such shows exist on a spectrum. At one end, we have Michael Mann's startlingly po-faced Miami Vice. At the other we have straight-up pastiches such as the very funny 21 Jump Street. Dax Shepard, who demonstrates equal brilliance as writer, director, producer and star, leans more towards parody, but he still finds time for a needlessly complex plot that involves police corruption, addled heroin addicts and at least one unexpected decapitation (enjoy your 15A cert, doofus).

This sits awkwardly with a succession of revolting comic duologues whose disorder we can partly excuse by assuming that some improvisation took place. Snort as Ponch (Michael Peña) describes his taste for licking one end of a date’s digestive tract. Laugh as Jon (Shepard) explains Ponch’s terrible error in sleeping with a woman who rates only “2” on some hideous sophomoric bonk scale. Oh look, Ponch is about to sext a girlfriend whose name appears beneath that of an older female boss in his contacts. If you can’t guess what happens next, you may be stupid enough to enjoy this film.

Did we mention the thing had a plot? In this version, the more competent Ponch begins as an FBI agent in Miami. Following various shootouts on various motorways, he is dispatched to investigate apparent corruption in the California Highway Patrol. Posing as a motorbike officer, Ponch is paired with aging, painkiller-popping rookie Jon Baker. They start out as sworn enemies before accommodating themselves to the demands of the buddy-buddy template.


Nothing about the film deserves commendation. The motorbike chases are less boring than the dialogue, but they are still scarcely more impressive than those from the original series. The tone is bizarrely muddled. The music is horrible. The inevitable Erik Estrada cameo is botched. Yeuch!

That imminent Baywatch film need only turn up to win this particular duel.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist