(2017) (Dax Shepard, Michael Pena) (R)
- QUICK TAKE:
- Comedy: A straight-laced FBI agent teams up with a hot-dog rookie motorcycle cop to bring down a group of crooked cops in L.A.
- Castillo (MICHAEL PENA) is an FBI agent in Miami, whose rogue behavior draws the ire of both his boss, Peterson (ISIAH WHITLOCK JR.), and partner, Clay Allen (ADAM BRODY). He agrees to be reassigned to an internal affairs investigation in Los Angeles regarding some crooked motorcycle cops heisting armored cars. He infiltrates the California Highway Patrol, using the name Francis "Ponch" Poncherello. He is partnered with a rookie cop named Jon Baker (DAX SHEPARD), a former X Games daredevil who's joining law enforcement to impress his ex-wife, Karen (KRISTEN BELL).
The two officers butt heads immediately, with Ponch only wanting to close the case, not form attachments, and go home. Jon, meanwhile, insists on going by the book and focusing on writing traffic and parking tickets rather than investigating other officers. When they're not arguing about the job, they get into all sorts of discussions about sex, masturbation, sexting, bowel movements, and other raunchy and scatological subjects. Jon also flirts with another motorcycle cop named Ava (ROSA SALAZAR), while Ponch shares an attraction with fellow CHiP Lindsey (JESSICA McNAMEE).
It's not long before Ponch and Jon run afoul of the ringleader of the crime ring, veteran motorcycle cop Ray Kurtz Sr. (VINCENT D'ONOFRIO). Senior is pulling off the daring, daylight heists to get enough money to leave the country and seek the best treatment for his heroin-addicted son, Ray Jr. (JUSTIN CHATWIN). Despite (or maybe because of) their constant bickering and preoccupation with sex, Ponch and Jon stay just one step behind them throughout.
- OUR TAKE: 4 out of 10
- For films not screened for the reviewing press, we only provide a few paragraphs of critical analysis.
The best thing I can say about the big-screen adaptation of the classic cop TV show, "CHiPs," is ... it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it would be. But you won't exactly being seeing that blurb in future newspaper ads for the flick, will we? It's still a pretty bad movie. But throughout its running time, you can see how this could have been a really good start to a fun and funny franchise.
The blame pretty much has to fall on Dax Shepard, who wrote and directed the flick, served as one of its executive producers, and stars here as Jon Baker (the Larry Wilcox role). He's clearly the guy who re-imagined the original show as an R-rated sex comedy full of sex, penis, and masturbation jokes. The film is constantly digressing from its central crime plot about catching a group of crooked motorcycle cops in L.A. who are heisting armored cars to offer up crass gags about analingus, sexting with co-workers, and the difficulty of riding motorcycles while sporting an erection.
At the same time, though, it appears this film at one point was a more hard-edged police procedural. You see the bare bones of a plot that was closer to 2000's big-screen "SWAT" adaptation. The main baddie is Vincent D'Onofrio, who is the mastermind behind a string of armored car heists to get enough money to escape L.A. in style and get help for his heroin-addicted son (Justin Chatwin, grown-up Robbie from "War of the Worlds" ... Poor Chatwin! To go from being sired by Tom Cruise to Sweaty Sweat himself, Vincent D'Onofrio?) At any rate, the intensity of these two actors doesn't match the comic leanings of everyone else in the flick.
Then, at one point, Jon gets run over by a truck (!) and has to be put on a ventilator. This forces Ponch (Michael Pena) to do some brief soul searching ... er, but two scenes later, he is indeed back to sexting with his new police captain. And she live Face-Times him while topless and wearing a pair of tight panties. It's a weird flick, with Jon addicted to pain killers and only able to have bowel movements every two weeks. But this is played for laughs. Ponch, meanwhile, is an undercover FBI agent, who gives up his cover so fast it's almost like you feel an entire reel of the film is missing.
On the positive side, Shepard makes his best decision by hiring Director of Photography Mitchell Amundsen of "Premium Rush" and "The Transporter 2" to film the action and chase scenes. And he delivers some of the most genuinely thrilling motorcycle footage since "Terminator 2: Judgment Day." Again, such scenes seem out of a whole 'nother flick entirely. But they were a lot of fun to watch.
So, a miss for sure, dear readers. But, again, it wasn't too far off the bull's eye. And, yes, there is an Erik Estrada cameo. But, sadly, his old partner and captain are nowhere to be found in 2017 L.A. Hey, Larry Wilcox and Robert Pine gotta eat, too! Ah well. The big-screen version warrants no better than a 4 out of 10. (T. Durgin)
Reviewed March 23, 2017 / Posted March 24, 2017
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