CHiPs: I Know it’s Cliche, But Just Watch 21 Jump Street

CHiPs Plot Summary:

A reckless FBI agent (Michael Pena) goes undercover with the California Highway Patrol to unmask dirty cops within the unit, but is saddled with an overzealous rookie partner (Dax Shepard) who’s facing his own gluttony of personal problems.

I’m sure every single review for this movie cites 21 Jump Street as the better movie.  Here’s the bottom-line: 21 Jump Street is a better movie.  This review wrote itself before this film even existed.  This isn’t a terrible effort, but it’s completely gutted by the fact that a much better option already exists.  If this came out before 21 Jump Street, it would fare slightly better.  The laughs are decent.  It’s entertaining enough.  At the end of the day though, CHiPs is like watching the Canadian Football League.  What’s the point?

Dax Shepard writes, stars and directs this project.  Geez Louise.  Was this guy a major CHiPs fan or something?  Why did Dax Shepard feel the need to take total control of the CHiPs reboot?  It’s CHiPs.  Let’s calm down.  While Dax strikes out mostly on writing and directing, he at least hits a solid double as an actor.  Shepard is likable enough as the good natured, glory days are behind him, Jon Baker.  He’s the overly sensitive dude who tries super hard, and kind of succeeds.  This role would have gone to Owen Wilson seven years ago.  Baker has endured a Rob Gronkowski like number of surgeries from extreme bike riding, which has left him brittle as a piece of bread.  I know it’s a movie, but this guy really shouldn’t be a cop.

Shepard is solid, but the better performance is Michael Pena.  This guy came to work.  We’re dealing with fairly weak material here, but Pena mostly succeeds in giving you a chuckle now and then.  The way Ponch is written also could have failed miserably.  The character has this extreme sex addiction that they play up constantly.  A lot of actors would have crashed and burned with this stuff, making the character super unlikable and just plain weird.  Pena sells it.  The only reason this movie mildly works is the chemistry among the two leads.

The movie also has a few solid supporting players.  Much like everyone else has to do with this script, Rosa Salazar elevates the material.  She plays a very likable, tough cop who’s taken with Baker.  She’s very charismatic.  Jane Kaczmarek and Vincent D’Onofrio also have a few nice moments.  D’Onofrio plays the villain.  While he’s solid in the role, the movie tries to give him this weak ass sympathetic back story that tries to justify his crimes.  It’s completely and utterly unnecessary.  This is CHiPs.  We don’t need layers here.

The plot in general is kind of a mess.  To be honest, I stopped paying attention.  The set-up is just plain dumb.  I have no clue what they were trying to do.  Some guy jumps off a helicopter, which starts a chain reaction of there being five corrupt cops or something, I don’t know.  I don’t care.  Shepard’s direction is also spotty.  There’s some really poorly edited action sequences, especially in the beginning.

As far as the laughs go, they were okay.  The movie hit on a few good physical gags, but not much else.  It drags most of the time, but manages to pull you back in here and there.  As this is a Rated-R comedy, you get plenty of dick, sex and potty jokes.  They were hit or miss, but I appreciated these jokes not lasting very long.  They were quick, unlike Vacation (2015) or Trainwreck, which were both excruciating.

This entire review has basically been a back handed compliment.  It’s not good, but it was FAR better than I expected.  There’s an effort, a few good chuckles, and I found myself still into it by the third act, so that’s something.  They also play the theme song.  That was nice of them.  The problem is there’s way too many lulls with no laughs whatsoever.  And to reiterate, 21 Jump Street already exists, and that truly is the movie’s biggest weakness.

Rating: 6 out of 10 (“Meh”)

Daniel Cohen is the hard-boiled Film Editor for the Pop Break. Besides reviews, Daniel writes box office predictions, Gotham reviews and Oscar coverage. He can also be found on the Breakcast. If Daniel was sprayed by Scarecrow’s fear toxin, it would be watching Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen on a non-stop loop.