Television-to-film adaptations have had a checkered history over the years – while Star Trek, Mission: Impossible and Sex and the City have had success, at least in box office terms, there have been some real shockers brought to the big screen. On the other hand, The Honeymooners, The Avengers and Lost in Space and many others have failed to translate their tales. CHiPs (California Highway Patrol), the latest and long-gestating adaptation of the 1970’s drama, comes to life thanks to actor/writer/director Dax Shepard with a new take on the material that sadly stalls as quickly as it revs up.
Kudos to Shepard for believing in the material and giving it a new spin – to simply adapt the television series as it was would have been foolhardy even for the most ardent fans but the writer-director saw something fun and exciting in the material that should have made for an entertaining night at the movies. Sadly, across pretty much all fronts CHiPs fails to muster anything close to that, and for the most part is one of the most painfully un-entertaining films of the year. You have to feel for him as he does throw his heart and soul into this one but the energy and enthusiasm he has just doesn’t translate itself to the screen.
Instead audiences are treated to an endless cycle of unfunny jokes, and zippy but uncompelling action as he, as Baker, and Ponch (Michael Pena), now an undercover FBI agent, investigate shady goings-on around the town that may involve fellow officers including the looming figure of Vic Brown, played by Vincent D’Onofrio in one of the films many wasted talents.
You can see where the project wanted to go – if you look at something like the Starsky and Hutch remake from 2004, where Todd Phillips and co. kept the original concept and the era but gave it a 2000’s makeover, it’s almost exactly what CHiPS aspires to be. But where Starsky and Hutch was funny, smart and energetic, CHiPs is lacklustre, insipid and exacerbating and begins to outstay its welcome rather quickly as our less-than-dynamic-duo Ponch and Baker move from one exhaustive and noisy set-piece to another, all the while hearing multiple pins drop in the comedy vacuum.
Michael Pena, always such a safe pair of hands, has his talents wasted here in a version of Ponch that is horribly unlikeable and allows none of the actors usual charm and wit to shine through; while Shepard’s Jon Baker is painfully and relentlessly annoying, and as a duo the two lack any kind of chemistry. A small nugget of nourishment comes from Roza Salazar as the object of Ponch’s affections and fellow officer AVA, who provides some comedic respite amongst the hopelessly sporadic laugh count.
For all the good will you would want to bestow on the film for trying something different with its original conceit, it’s disintegrated almost instantly as the film jumps from one uninspired moment to the next as it desperately hunts for some semblance of fun and relevance. Instead, CHiPs joins the ranks of some of the aforementioned television adaptations that failed disastrously to move from small to big screen. Buy a bag of real chips instead…
CHiPs opens across UK cinemas from 24th March.