"CHIPS" Movie Destined To Find Life On DVD - As A Coaster

In 2012, actor Dax Shepard (“Idiocracy”) added writer and director to his résumé with sneakily charming action-comedy “Hit And Run.” His follow-up, “CHIPS,” based on the featherweight television series that ran on NBC from 1977 to 1983 and somehow still lives on in syndication, sees Shepard take a flamethrower to any goodwill left over from his debut. There is nothing funny, fun, or likable about his sophomore effort; nothing enjoyable about the way it flushes a $25 million budget and a typically game Michael Peña (“Ant-Man”) down the toilet in the name of pointless raunch. “CHIPS” is very, very bad.

Cue a laborious buddy-cop setup and score that sounds like it was recorded by an Audioslave cover band and we’re off on two wrong feet.

Shepard stars as rookie California Highway Patrol Jon Baker (role originated by Larry Wilcox), a former professional motorcyclist with the scars, opiate addiction, and trophy wife (Kristen Bell) to prove it. Peña co-stars a Miami-based FBI agent tasked with going undercover as California High Patrol, assuming the identity of Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (role originated by Erik Estrada). Baker’s painkiller problem and Ponch’s seemingly debilitating sex addiction are the movie’s only streams of would-be laughs, as if the past four years saw Shepard develop an allergy to humor.

It’s not just that the movie isn’t funny. It’s that it barely keeps up the appearance of trying to be funny, lazily tossing out sex references like an elderly magician biding his time throwing playing cards at a dusty top hat.

As the new partners set out to unravel a conspiracy within their ranks, Vincent D’Onofrio labors as the pic’s generic baddie. The mystery at the center of the movie is no mystery at all, letting us and just about everyone but Jon and Ponch in on it, failing to generate even the most basic kind of suspense. A modestly compelling story might have covered over the movie’s listless juvenilia and lack of chemistry between its stars. Alas, narrative might be the cellar for “CHIPS.”

There are, of course, vehicular chase scenes, none of them as crisply shot as those in “Hit And Run,” all of them rife with unconcern for geography and poor continuity editing. Even 2005’s comparable “The Dukes Of Hazzard” had the sense to dole out a handful of gnarly car chases. Here, the action is just as sloppy as everything else, ever so often punctuated with a dash cam shot as if to unconvincingly scream, “This is exciting!”

Dax Shepard has unwittingly made the Comic Sans of TV adaptations, only without the chance of future underdog status. Comic Sans, the oft-ridiculed sans-serif typeface, has cultivated a small but enthusiastic following on the Internet. “CHIPS” will cultivate no such following. It is as boring as it is awful, rolling in misogyny and homophobia like a pig in mud, sailing past the 90-minute mark with not a single laugh on the books, careening into its end credits with one last reference to analingus.

At least in its pointlessness, “CHIPS” is fervently committed to fulfilling its name.

-J. Olson

Rating: ★ out of ★★★★★ (Very Bad)

Release Date: March 24, 2017
Studio: Warner Bros. Pictures
Director: Dax Shepard
Screenwriter: Dax Shepard
Starring: Dax Shepard, Michael Peña, Rosa Salazar, Adam Brody, Kristen Bell, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jessica McNamee, Justin Chatwin
MPAA Rating: R (for crude sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive language, some violence and drug use)