Welcome to the JOE-DOWN, a back-and-forth movie review blog by two snarky newspapermen named Joe from Minnesota, Joe Froemming and Joe Brown. We will take turns selecting a movie — any movie we want — and review it here. For this installment, Brown picked “CHIPS.”
The Movie: “CHIPS”
Starring: Michael Pena, Dax Shepard, Vincent D’Onofrio
Director: Dax Shepard
Plot Summary: (From IMDB) A rookie officer is teamed with a hardened pro at the California Highway Patrol, though the newbie soon learns his partner is really an undercover Fed investigating a heist that may involve some crooked cops.
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 19 percent
Brown: In getting back to the JOE-DOWN routine, it’s good to go back to our tried-and-trues.
We did that last week by going with a superhero movie in the immensely dark and emo “The Batman.”
Another trusty callback was movies from coke-fueled source material.
So that’s why 2017’s “CHIPS” seemed like a good idea.
The beloved late ‘70s-early ‘80s show got back onto my radar this past summer when I went to go visit Froemming in North Dakota. We were driving around, listening to Conan O’Brien’s podcast and laughing about the argument he got into with Bill Burr about the show “CHIPS.”
So when the movie popped up on my Hulu movies, I figured Froemming and I could indulge our inner O’Brien/Burr.
… Although while Burr loved it and O’Brien thought it was stupid, I think Froemming and I will be more unanimous with our opinion.
Hell, when I told Froemming we were doing this movie next, I could hear his groan over the text message.
Like the movie, this review of “CHIPS” is not endorsed by the California Highway Patrol.
Froemming, give us your first thoughts while I go to the bathroom for the third time before 11 a.m.
Froemming: This was going through my head through the whole movie:
I grew up with the show “CHIPS,” one of the weirder police shows from the ’70s-80s that was always on TV and I could not tell you the plot to one episode besides the one that delved into the world of punk rock:
Now, in my head, “CHIPS” ended when Ponch and his buddies were all about saying things like: Some will die in hot pursuit in fiery auto crashes. Some will die in hot pursuit while sifting through my ashes. Some will fall in love with life and drink it from a fountain.That is pouring like an avalanche, coming down the mountain.
Yeah, no way “Pepper” was not going to be mentioned right away in a review for “CHIPS.”
Brown, as I head into the bathroom for my fourth “dump” of the day, why don’t you kick this off?
Brown: We start with a split opening between who’ll be our unlikely duo in Jon Baker (Shepard) and Agent Castillo (Pena).
So Baker looks like he’s living in a YMCA or something and is on a ton of painkillers after a short-but-brutal motocross career. He’s on his way to take his test to enroll with the California Highway Patrol.
Castillo is doing a good deal better. He’s doing the whole Patrick Bateman skincare routine. He’s drinking green smoothies for breakfast. And he’s a ladies man because this movie lasted a whole two minutes before we saw a woman’s bare nipples in Castillo’s bed.
Castillo, who is with the FBI, is working undercover as a getaway driver for a group of bank robbers. All in a car, mind you, which bummed me out. This is “CHIPS.” I came here for motorcycles, not a bad “Fast and Furious” knockoff.
Also, Castillo is absolutely going to get these guys off after getting into a fistfight with a suspect in cuffs and bragging about banging said suspect’s wife.
… Everything about this movie is going to be bad.
Froemming: This whole getaway sequence was pointless, right? If he was in on it as an undercover agent, arrest the robbers outside the bank. This whole intro made no sense and, again, dark thoughts crept through my mind…
Also, Castillo shoots his partner who was taken hostage by the robber. How is he not fired on the spot?
Granted, his superior officer at the FBI has shady past dealings in Baltimore.
Brown: But hey, at CHIPS, there’s an even more inept superior officer. Even after re-aggravating a previous injury on the obstacle course, missing every shot in target practice and admitting he’s only after this job in an attempt to save his marriage, a senior officer gives Jon a probationary graduation. Why? Because he rides motorcycles well and Jon’s eyes remind her of her husband.
… So your husband is also sad and defeated after years of being cucked, too?
Froemming: Jon is cucked by, apparently, the biggest celebrity from North Dakota, Josh Duhamel. Which, if you think about it, makes the whole situation much more depressing. It would be like being cucked by the biggest celebrity from Iowa, former President Herbert Hoover.
Jon has a bunch of bad injuries that become some of the worst plot devices I have seen in film. From his bad knee, titanium arm and the fact he can’t move when it rains (???) all are used in some way to make him basically the Forrest-Gump-of-injuries in this thing.
Meanwhile, Castillo is assigned to go undercover at the California Highway Patrol with the name Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello. Not since Juan Sánchez-Villalobos Ramírez has a name for a character been this confusing.
Brown: Our newly christened Ponch gets this assignment after a highway robbery that saw a CHIPs chopper pilot jump to his death after his boyfriend was being held hostage.
So we’re getting the worst “L.A. Confidential” we could have asked for. With bad gay jokes being used in 2017 and a constant dialogue about eating ass.
At least the “CHiPS” TV show had charm. This is a movie that should have been made 10 year prior. And it still wouldn’t have been funny.
But for the sake of moving this review along, let’s have Ponch and Jon meet. And Ponch will be all super weird about Jon in his underwear because it’s gay or something?
… Seriously, how the (REDACTED) was this movie made in 2017?
Froemming: Ponch and Jon take to the streets, where Baker is way too enthusiastic ticketing people for minor offenses. But he needs to be in the top whatever of the group, so he just goes for it. Meanwhile, Ponch is fitting in with the others by mocking his new partner. So he can get intel on his case. I think. This movie makes very little sense between all the homophobia and attempts at humor. I laughed so little during this, it might as well have been a drama. I felt like Dr. Hibbert.
Brown: Again, this movie has no charm compared to the source material.
I just feel sorry for Jon because he’s clearly addicted to painkillers and is in a very misguided career because he is playing amateur psychologist thinking that his wife will stay with him if he has the same career as her father.
Meanwhile, Ponch is a shady womanizer who has none of the charisma of Erik Estrada.
But somehow every woman on CHIPS is horned up for these two? …
Moving this along… Jon and Ponch visit the widow of the chopper pilot who killed himself. Jon notices there’s nothing in the house showing the dead husband, which Ponch doesn’t realize.
Then they pull over a guy who’s speeding across the highway, blasting Toto’s “Rosanna.” Which does beg a good question: has anyone ever blasted “Rosanna” from their car unironically?
Froemming: No. Which, once again….
The driver has basically a license to get a speeding warning because he donated to some police charity or something. Which, I imagine, is something rich people actually can get and do.
Also, we have not discussed the most depressing part of this movie: The wasted talents of Vincent D’Onofrio in this piece of (REDACTED).
Brown: That was the one positive note I wrote about this movie: the one thing “CHIPS” proves is that Vincent D’Onofrio has stage presence. Even in pieces of (REDACTED) movies like this.
We find out that D’Onofrio’s character, Lieutenant Raymond Kurtz, is the mastermind behind these robberies. And he actually does it so he can leave town with his heroin-addicted son.
That’s an interesting character dynamic… that gets no time to digest amid all the homophobic jokes.
Froemming: His son was also, to me at least, Hydrox Jesse Pinkman.
And yeah, that would have made for an entirely more interesting movie: A cop father breaking bad to help his son get the hell out of LA. But no, we get two minutes of that in an ocean of homophobia and bad jokes.
And boy, do we get more of that when, one day, it happens to rain so Jon can’t get out of bed and his wife is too busy making omelets for North Dakota’s biggest celebrity, Josh Duhamel™. After calling others, Jon gets Ponch on the phone to help him get his pain meds and throw him in a bathtub.
What….how…would rain affect him like this? I feel this was just a way to be able to have Jon’s twig and berries smack Ponch in the face in this scene.
Brown: I think they’re going with that old wives’ tale bit about having achy joints when it rains. Or, you know, something equally as stupid. It’s all a setup for a “dude, your junk hit my face!” joke.
There was also a chase after another highway robbery that had everyone driving through a park filled with inflatable bounce houses?
Between this, the car chase at the beginning and the one near the end that we see paparazzi get hit by a “Breaking Bad”-style RV the FBI was using, conservatively, how many people died due to police negligence on the roads? It’s LA, so hundreds?
Jon and Ponch also find that the dead chopper pilot had a second place that he shared with his boyfriend that was held hostage and has gone missing. After a fight with the chopper pilot’s partner at the wife’s house, he gives Jon and Ponch an idea: maybe the name LT isn’t a name. Perhaps it’s a job title.
So they start looking at headshots of all the police lieutenants and they decide that it has to be Kurtz because *checks notes* it’s Vincent (REDACTED) D’Onofrio.
I mean, I watched “Daredevil” and “The Punisher.” I get that logic.
Froemming: Well, our heroes stakeout a drug deal and we get yet another chase, though this time with Hydrox Jesse Pinkman. After some impressive motorcycle stunt work here, chasing on top of buildings and whatnot, Kurtz Jr. is cut down in his prime by a wire that just so happens to be stretched out where his neck happens to be. He goes out like a Highlander, and for some reason, nobody knows who the hell this guy was.
The LAPD, CHIPs and FBI have no idea who this person was? The son of someone in law enforcement is somehow not IDed?
Brown: I could buy the idea that his dad removed any dental records or fingerprints in case he got in trouble.
He apparently was a professional motocross rider like Jon was. And everyone knows who Jon was. So clearly, someone is going to recognize Junior from his X-Games days.
Froemming, I don’t think this movie is very good.
Anywho, Ponch is finally fired for not only blowing the case, causing untold millions in damages and shooting his partner a second time, but also for video sexing with the mom from “Malcolm in the Middle.”
Clay Davis has had enough and fires him. So, naturally, this has almost zero impact on the plot at all.
Oh, Jon is in the hospital because he was run over by a SWAT truck Kingpin was driving. Could be worse vehicle related injuries with him:
We glossed over it too, because this movie is so lousy, but Ponch becomes not only the best friend of Jon for no real reason, he becomes Charlie-from-“Sunny”-levels of stupid halfway through this movie. For no reason.
Brown: Turns out that Jon is doing just fine because his titanium arm, which he got after a motocross accident, took the brunt of the hit (from the (REDACTED) Hummer) and it was only a “5 out of 10” pain wise.
After Ponch picks him up at the hospital, Jon returns to his home where his wife sold the place without his knowledge. I’d like to think that Shooter McGavin bought the house purely out of spite.
I’m starting to think this wife (played by Kristen Bell, Dax Shepard’s real-life wife) is a terrible person. Whose hooking up with North Dakota’s most famous person, Josh Duhamel.
By the way, Froemming, I don’t plan on learning how to say Josh Duhamel’s name correctly. He doesn’t earn that right after being in “CHIPS.”
Froemming: He doesn’t earn that right for anything.
Ponch lets Jon live in his apartment, really making me think this is more of an “Odd Couple” reboot than a “CHIPs” reboot. And Ponch gets sworn into the CHIP because the mom from “Malcolm in the Middle” is really into him…
*rubs temple* I really, really dislike this movie.
So, to somehow make a nonsensical plot make even less sense, Kurtz kidnaps Jon’s wife to lure him and Ponch to an early grave. But since, you know, Kurtz’s time as a free man is down the tubes pretty soon (if this world made any sense in this thing), he decides to add to his list of crimes the murder of two police officers and the kidnapping of a woman. Instead of, you know, hightailing it down to Mexico before the hammer falls.
Brown: Safe to assume that Kurtz is in a world of shit, Froemming?
Froemming: If only R. Lee would have run up to him and yelled “what’s your major malfunction, numbnuts?!” That would have been at least a highlight in this thing.
No, Kurtz lures them and then chases them on his motorcycle, which gives us another chase scene. And we now know a few other cops are dirty here, including former Party Down caterer Kyle Bradway!
Well, the chase ends, like most do, in an abandoned metal shed building on the outskirts of wherever, and Ponch gets his fingers shot off, which, unlike when Stevie got shot, did not make me laugh.
Here we have Ponch and Jon fighting Kurtz, which is ridiculous since I, too, have seen “Daredevil” and “Punisher” and know for a fact these two chuckleheads would not stand a chance with Kingpin!
Brown: It all comes to a head when Kurtz fires a clip into Jon. Only, the bullets hit Jon’s titanium arm and ricochet off the arm and in between Kurtz eyes.
My actual reaction to seeing that:
Then yeah, Jon and Ponch head off in an ambulance. Jon starts making out with a young female CHIPS officer while Ponch and Erik Estrada watch.
Yeah, Erik Estrada shows up at the end. As a medic. Offering Ponch morphine.
Look, I’ve never taken drugs in my life, but if morphine made me forget this movie…
The final scene has Castillo (going by his real name again) turning down an offer to go back to Miami so he can stay with the CHIPS. And, the movie ends.
Oh boy… Froemming, carry me over to recommendations. But make sure you don’t trip unless you want my crotch in your face.
WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
Froemming: No. Hard pass. I honestly would have preferred it if we had just watched and reviewed two old episodes of the show.
Here is what’s coming up for the next JOE-DOWN: