CHIPS is the latest kitschy-yet-beloved cop show to get remodeled on the big screen as a bromantic buddy comedy. However, unlike the way the movie versions of Starsky & Hutch and 21 Jump Street played up those shows’ alleged homoeroticism for ironic, lighthearted laughs, CHIPS lets it be known from the jump that it isn’t down with that gay shit.
When Michael Peña’s Frank “Ponch” Poncherello and Dax Shepard’s Jon Baker first meet, Ponch immediately gets standoffish as Baker tries to hug him while wearing nothing but boxer briefs. When Baker accuses Ponch of being homophobic, we get a rambling, not-that-funny debate between them about what homophobia actually is. They bicker for the first half of the film, of course, but eventually bond when Ponch accidentally faceplants into Baker’s naked crotch while trying to carry Baker over to a bathtub (you just to roll with the setups). Twitter folk have been griping about these moments of gay panic from the movie’s trailers, but considering how this flick is such a jacked, testosterone-heavy frenzy of car chases, explosions, violence, hot women and wall-to-wall dick jokes, I’m actually kind of shocked there aren’t more homophobic gags here. (It is worth noting that there are gay male characters in the movie, but they seem to be there only to die horribly or get injured a lot.)
To say CHIPS is hypermasculine would be putting it mildly. In one climactic scene, a character has three of his fingers blown off — and yet he still continues to whoop somebody’s ass despite the lost digits. All this manly madness comes from Shepard, who wrote and directed the whole shebang. Continuing in the same high-octane spirit he brought to the 2012 film Hit & Run (which he wrote, co-directed and starred in), Shepard uses CHIPS to once again show he could be an R-rated Hal Needham, making the kind of dumb, fun, chase films the stuntman-turned-director aced with Burt Reynolds back in the day. You know, where men were Men, driving souped-up cars and bikes, shagging sexy dames and leaving massive pileups — both human and automotive —in their wake.
But even as this wildly macho package tries to win over its audience by offering nothing but speed-demon chases and sex talk (wait until you hear Peña and Shepard discuss the joys of analingus!), CHIPS proves overwhelming self-indulgent — their good time seems to matter more than ours. Shepard and Peña (who also serve as producers) practically use it to engage in some good ol’ wish fulfillment. After years of being stuck in neutered supporting roles, Peña is all studly, arrogant swagger, as his sex-addict hothead hooks up with gals left and right.
Hell, in the opening minutes, he wakes up in bed next to legendary hip-hop video vixen Vida Guerra. (In keeping with his character’s love ’em-and-leave ‘em attitude, Ponch has scribbled her name on a Post-It note on his bathroom mirror, in case he forgets.) As for Shepard, he sticks it to his archenemies — the paparazzi! — by having a few photographers mowed down during one chase scene. And in a move that couples therapists could have a field day with, Shepard’s own significant other, Kristen Bell, play the thankless role of Baker’s estranged wife, an ungrateful harpy who’s too wrapped up in her career to notice him struggling. (To kick it up an even more demeaning notch, she seems to be wearing padded bras.)
CHIPS is so all-around masturbatory, it’s hardly a surprise when we learn that Ponch has to constantly pull over because he needs to find a bathroom and rub one out. Much like him, this revved-up orgy of raunch and sweet rides never stops jerking itself off.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on March 24, 2017