In the 1990s, a popular trend was to remake old cheesy comedies into live action films. This went as badly as you expect with movies such as The Beverly Hillbillies and The Flintstones being about as good as someone flicking you in the testicles with an elastic band. This trend went away for a while as it rarely produced films you actually wanted to go and see but it came back recently thanks to the surprise success of 21 Jump Street and its sequel. But can the 21st century show it’s better than the 90s of making movies of TV series with CHiPs?
In Los Angeles, there is a robbery of an armored vehicle and it appears that crooked cops may have helped it to happen. So Francis Poncherello (Michael Pena, The Martian) is sent into the California Highway Patrol undercover to try and find out who is behind it. However, he is partnered up with a rookie cop called Jon Baker (Dax Shepard, Parenthood) whose stupidity keeps stopping Francis from doing his assignment.
While it’s been done a lot, most notably on the brilliant sitcom Brooklyn Nine-Nine, there’s a lot of humor you can mine from police officers and they work they do. Because we always like to poke fun at authority figures, making jokes at the expense of those people who stop us from breaking the law has always made sense. So what line of humor do CHiPs decide to take? Do they decide to make fun of the jobsworth policemen who try and nail you on the tiniest, most inconsequential stuff rather than going after the real bad guys? For about a minute, but not really. So does it instead be quite edgy and take down the police and their overly militaristic ways? That’d be fun but not really. No, we get the lazy routes, lots of jokes about penises and butts.
Yes, the humor is on the level where a 12-year-old would say he was too mature for it before giggling at the number 69. Which let’s be honest, you just giggled at too you monster. One of the running jokes is that Francis doesn’t really want to touch another man’s penis. This seems fair enough to me, but then he is called homophobic to supposed comedic effect. I don’t get either. Francis also has another quirk in that his weakness is women wearing yoga pants. As in if he sees a woman wearing this athletic apparel, he stops in his tracks and stares at the woman’s bottom until he is dragged away. This is again meant to be humourous, but I’ve always thought that jokes should have punchlines and this doesn’t have one. The fact this movie spends so much time on these supposed jokes without them once making you laugh is infuriating.
And as I’ve briefly mentioned the women in yoga pants running joke, let’s talk about how woman are represented in this film. Now I’m not a feminist, but I feel like women should be allowed to be funny in a movie and not just either be sex objects or, and I hate using this word, bitches. CHiPs, however, does not believe that is the case and thinks it is ok if almost every woman is something our main characters should gawp at. Even Jane Kaczmarek (Malcolm in the Middle), a hugely talented comedic actress who is a senior figure in the police, has to get her kit off at one point. Then we are all meant to be disgusted when it is revealed that she is the one who is half naked as she’s old. Because we might as well chuck some ageism in with the sexism.
Now it would be one thing if Chips just tried to be a movie with this sort of sexist and overly macho humor. I would hate it and rant about it on this website, but it would find a home with the less educated fraternities out there and we could all forget about it as long as we never entered their threshold. But what makes this movie completely terrible, one of the worst of the year is that the movie can’t decide if it wants to go through with this sort of humor. There is a horrific joke midway through the movie when Jon’s penis slaps into Francis’ face. This is in slow-mo, because of course it is, and it is the pay-off to Francis being scared of other people’s penises. Now it is up for the movie to sell it. And yet it doesn’t. The two start to laugh, which neuters the joke completely. Let Michael Pena over act in disgust, make him act like the world has ended, sell the God damned joke you have set up. Ye sit’s terrible but you have made this bed so bloody lie in it. So what happens is that even if you did find this joke funny, you have the punchline ruined. It’s like the people behind the movie don’t understand how a joke works.
Now this is where I try to find something nice to say about the movie but it is really difficult on this occasion. Well, the film is shot like a movie and nothing is a mess to watch. It’s in focus and the Californian sun means it isn’t dreary to look at. I mean this is the base stuff you demand from a film but considering this is a comedy film that is unable to tell a joke properly, you should take what you can get. And while Michael Pena is completely terrible in this and it’s a waste of his great talents, I do like the fact he was probably able to pay some bills and have a nice meal out because he was in this.
I don’t want to say that CHiPs is worse than Dirty Grandpa. It didn’t put me in the hospital like that film did, and I’m not even sure it is worse than this year’s Fist Fight in this movie at least realizes it is too stupid to have a message. But it is right up there, mixing it up with some of the worst comedies that Hollywood have plopped out over the last few years. It simply doesn’t know how to tell a joke, it doesn’t even get the structure you need to make them work, and the little humor it has is usually about penises and butts. This is god awful and the police should arrest the people behind it.