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Dax Shepard continues to hone his skills behind the camera while gaining even more trust from movie studios. In 2012, Shepard was granted the opportunity to write and direct a mainstream action comedy, Hit and Run in which he also starred in. While not becoming a box office smash hit, the financials gains were enough to raise a few eyebrows and put him in line to do something larger down the road. Less than five years later Dax is back and looking to make an even larger splash with his latest action comedy. Some readers may remember Ponch (Erik Estrada) and Jon (Larry Wilcox) from their six seasons of patrolling California highways on motorcycles, but 2017 will take this reimagined duo to new heights (and lows) in CHIPS.
Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) is man desperate to win back the woman he loves by proving to her that he can become a successful person. Leaning on something that comes naturally to him, Jon leverages his exceptional talent for riding a motorcycle into an opportunity with the California Highway Patrol. Frank Poncherello (Michael Peña), or Ponch for short, finds himself right by Jon’s side as his new partner. Ponch’s motivation to work with this unit is purely professional. He’s been tasked to expose crooked cops working within this particular division. These two unlikely partners must trust one another and work together if they hope to get anywhere in life. Fasten your chinstraps and get ready for a wild ride.
If you’re one of the readers that actually remember the television show CHiPs, aside from the motorcycles and tan uniforms, there’s not much in this theatrical adaptation that will remind you of the original show. Firstly, this movie is rated R so plan on seeing and hearing some things that you’d never get from over-the-air television. Following in the footsteps of movies like 21 Jump Street (2012), expect a complete embrace of the restricted rating. Part of what makes CHIPS so enjoyable is that goes full throttle ahead towards mature themed material.
It’s clear from the start that Dax Shepard (NBC’s Parenthood) and Michael Peña (End of Watch (2012)) have incredible chemistry together. This natural chemistry is the main reason that this movie works. They play off of one another without missing a beat throughout. Shepard does a good job directing but not going overboard with his control. Casting is also plus here. While the majority of the movie focuses on the two main stars, there are some nice changes of pace as well as some pleasant surprises throughout. Some of the enlisted talent are Maya Rudolph, Jane Kaczmarek, Richard T. Jones, Ryan Hansen, Vincent D’Onofrio and Kristen Bell.
The action scenes, especially involving motorcycles, are quite exhilarating. This is somewhat due to Shepard’s decision to utilize different mediums to capture the action. In addition to traditional cameras, his team used drones (sweet!) and even special gyroscopic cameras mounted to the handlebars of the motorcycles to capture all the twists, turns and white-knuckled stunts up close and very personal. And speaking of the effects, forget those green screens and CGI effects. CHIPS goes old school and sticks with practical effects. The advantage here is the more realistic appearance of action.
Having an opportunity to sit down with and talk to CHIPS two top cops, Dax Shepard and Michael Peña, there are many additional facts that I learned about while speaking with them. For example, Michael Peña learned how to ride a motorcycle in four short months prior to filming. Dax is a wise and frugal director. I say this because, while it seems like this is a “break the bank” production, it was more about getting the most for your buck without sacrificing quality. A good example of that is that there’s a point where a motorhome is completely demolished. They filmed the entire scene in one take with multiple cameras. It’s ballsy but they pulled it off without compromising the quality of the overall outcome. Michael’s brother is a police officer in Chicago which has directly, or indirectly led to some of the roles he’s been cast for throughout his career. On the sad side of things, I learned about several scenes that were left out of the theatrical release. Personally I think the movie would have benefited from their inclusion, but decisions were made to play it safe (thank you conservative early test audiences, he says sarcastically).
CHIPS is a real riot even if you have never seen the original television show that inspired this movie. Having said that, for those that have seen it, there’s a couple of moments that will make you feel nostalgic. Other than that, get ready to laugh at the silliness and be wooed by the action. While it isn’t quite as good as it could have been (using expectations from the trailer as a measuring stick), there are still lots of laughs to be had here. Check it out in theaters now.

CHIPs is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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