I see a lot of movies, and at the same time a lot of movies come my way. So, of course, I miss a movie now and then. But over time I try and catch up. Welcome to my regular series “Catching Up” in which I take a look at a movie that, for one reason or another, I just missed the first time around.
Early in CHiPs there is a long, lingering shot of a cat’s anus. This is supposed to be funny. That should seal the deal on whether or not you want to see it. If it doesn’t, you need help.
For that reason, and many others, I don’t want to meet the people who would be entertained by a movie like CHiPs; furthermore, I don’t want to meet the people who would make a movie like CHiPs. Here is yet another comedy at the lowest common denominator, shelling out the kinds of frat-boy sex jokes and bodily function gags suitable for those metal signs that say “Beer is the answer, but I can’t remember the question.”
It’s also a little heart-breaking. “CHiPs” wasn’t an especially good show when it ran on NBC from 1977 to 1983 but it was good-hearted, featuring a friendship between two cops who loved their jobs and, in a lot of ways, each other. The adventures were fun and over-the-top and it had a pretty cool theme song. Those of us now in our mid-40 throw knowing smiles at each other when the show is brought up in conversation.
There is nothing loving or affectionate about this movie. Written and directed by the otherwise very funny Dax Shepard – who should know better – the movie mines comedy for those who think that the words “kitty litter” are automatically funny.
The story is a lot of ‘who-cares’. Former pro-motorcycle rider Jon Baker (Shepard) who has turned rookie highway patrol officer teams up with an undercover Miami fed working under the name Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (Michael Peña) who comes out to California on the trail of a group of dirty cops led by Vic Brown (played by a wasted Vincent D’Onofrio). Upon being paired up, our common sense flags start to go up, particularly when we are introduced to Ponch’s sex addiction and Baker’s addiction to pain killers which is heaped upon his lingering obsession over his estranged wife (Kristen Bell). Are you laughing yet?
So yeah, Ponch’s sex addiction means that we get long, lingering male-gaze shots of women’s breasts and derrieres and lots of jokes involving sexting and masturbation – naturally women fling themselves at him. From Baker’s end we get a tasteless gag in which Ponch has to carry his naked body from the bathroom to the tub followed by a conversation about whether his face touched . . . oh you shouldn’t even care! I didn’t see this much homophobia in seventh-grade gym class 30 years ago.
This is a movie that can’t get anything right, made by people who don’t seem to care. It fails as a comedy because no one cares to set up a joke. It fails as a police procedural because no one cares to set up a good story. And it fails as an action picture because it can’t raise stunts that we care anything about. I’m not a big fan of The Fast and the Furious movies but at least those people care to put some actual work into their stunts. This movie is focused less one giving you a good time then padding its running time with jokes about homophobia.
Homophobia, by the way, is a massive part of this experience. There’s a lot of time wasted on the horror that a man in your company might either be a homosexual or have homosexual tendencies. It would seem to be an unreasoning fear but given the way that sex is thrown around in this movie, one might presume that if a homosexual appeared in the movie, it is likely to be followed by a voracious sexual attack. It’s not a joke, it’s a blunt instrument established in jokes that fall flat before they even begin.
What’s worse is that this is crux of the whole movie. Shepard (for he is to blame) takes a lot of crude, homophobia and mixes it with jokes that aren’t even set up right. Example: Ponch is frequently sexting a buxom female officer. and at one point he accidentally sends the text to his superior (Jane Krakowsky), but we can see her number on his phone before he sends it out. So the joke is already knocked down before it gets set up.
I only isolate that moment because it’s the kind of misfire that happens over and over and over. Jokes are set up , but we can see the payoff because the editing is mishandled. Added to that, there isn’t a single character in this movie that isn’t utterly repulsive and the movie puts a button on its repulsiveness by ending on a scene in which a female officer begins a sexual adventure with Baker in the back of an ambulance while Ponch looks on with leering, orgasmic delight.
Personally, I checked out at the cat anus.