Not Too Chipper
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Naming this Chips seems more like a legal requirement. It’s a movie about the California Highway Patrol and the characters are named Ponch and Jon. They ride motorcycles too. That’s it with regards to the ’70s television drama.
Almost assuredly greenlit based on the raunchy success of the 21 Jump Street revival, Dax Shepard’s Chips (he writes, directs, and stars) clumsily jumps through gags, without latching onto the reasons for Jump Street’s success. It was more than star power – Jump Street’s self-depreciating mockery of the source material blended beautifully with contemporary comedy. Chips pays no homage outside of using the theme jingle.
Some crudeness hits like intended. Ponch’s (Michael Pena) sexual deviance offers something to work with comically. Other scenes of absurdity, including a number of improbable action set pieces, get their fill. The rest of Chips suffers a comedic flatline. No resuscitation is possible.
… stretching beyond comedic expiration
… stretching beyond comedic expiration
The over reliance on abrasiveness acts like a noose, slowly strangling the life from this minimal studio comedy. Shepard’s script and/or improv pushes the language into overdrive, not offensive as much as repetitively dry. Not to keep regurgitating Jump Street the same way, but Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill tossed expletives like champions. Shepard and co-star Pena (a comedy superstar in Ant Man) do so in an attempt to evolve their characters. Pitifully.
All too quickly, Chips slips in Gay Tony, as ludicrous a stereotype as seen on screen since the ‘80s. Worse, Gay Tony’s impact on the story is non-existent. He’s there to make someone uncomfortable, that someone uncomfortable because of gaudy stereotypes like this. Rib homophobia to excess; make that unwelcoming. Chips chooses an inexcusable low blow instead.
Over 90-minutes of meandering action, Chips drops and restarts a plot about corruption in the department more times than used to be possible in such a runtime. Back-and-forth dialog between Shepard and Pena is meant to be the source of laughter. Instead, their exchanges linger, stretching beyond comedic expiration. With limited support from side characters, generally one-offs like Ben Falcone and Maya Rudolph, the movies rests on its stars. They’re not equipped.
With only a handful of problems on the Blu-ray side, Chips’ challenge is the plain cinematography. Slightly elevated color holds a little zest. Black levels come and go, slipping off during the finale when most needed. A shot inside the cab of a truck is outright gray.
Luckily, the California sun peers down on much of this film, giving a hearty contrast to a majority of scenes, if bleaching a touch of detail. Most of Chips comes with great texture though. Sometimes, bland style helps. Here, it’s mostly a series of close-ups, nearly all of them sporting spectacular fidelity.
Some noise isn’t a problem until it is. The needless sequence in which Pena picks up Shepard oddly smooths Pena’s face, noise swarming in the process. Generally, the digital images transfer to disc minus any production artifacts. Warner’s encode is passable considering how little the film demands.
With plenty of motorcycle action, the DTS-HD 5.1 mix is given more of a workout compared to most comedies. Plentiful chase sequences create opportunities for panning effects, pleasingly handled. When guns start firing, impacts find a home in the rears. In an early scene, Shepard’s poor marksmanship makes for a fine audio moment, the gun shooting in the front, the target being the wall behind the camera. Each shot connects in a rear channel.
More than a handful of explosions test the subwoofer, if not to any great degree. Even a large building going up in flames feels reserved. Still, gunfire bleeds into the low-end when needed. In a few instances, vehicle engines workout the low-end too.
Bonus features open with This is Not Your Dad’s Chips, discussing Shepard’s reasons for remaking the series and where the inspiration came from. It’s a typical nine minute featurette outside of some laughs. Stunt work is highlighted in Practical Pursuit, likewise for about nine minutes. A peek at the bikes and 10 deleted scenes (with option Shepard intros to each) mark the conclusion of Chips.
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