'CHIPs' Review: Dax Shepard. Dude, We Need to Talk
Brother. Dude. Look, I need to be straight with you here. When you broke into the business back in 2003 with Punk’D, I was not a fan. You were kind of obnoxious, and when you showed up in Without a Paddle, my impression of you did not improve — I believe I called it a Tom Green movie without the charm of Tom Green (remember Tom Green? Yeah, no one does).
But then you hooked up with Kristen Bell, who is very popular around these parts, but our first thought wasn’t, “Oh wait. Maybe Dax is a really good guy,” it was more like, “Oh no. Kristen has suffered a terrible head injury.” But then you guys are so cute together with your game nights and the sloths and your Game of Thrones cosplay. After your run on Parenthood, my opinion started to change: I had a suspicion that you were maybe like your Parenthood character: A well-intentioned guy who has a propensity for fucking up.
That opinion was validated when I heard you on a few podcasts — the Nerdist and Marc Maron. You were literally one of the best podcast guests I’d ever heard, mostly because you genuinely are a spectacular, kind person who has led a troubled life, but who managed to overcome a lot of shit. That account you wrote of your dying father meeting your unborn child? Broke my heart, dude.
That’s a long way of prefacing this: If you’re reading this, please don’t read any further. You seem like a swell guy, and I don’t want to hurt your feelings, and I really don’t want you handing your iPad over to your wife and saying, “Look what this asshole said about my movie!” Because here’s the thing, Dax: Your movie is really bad. The acting is bad; the writing is horrible; and the directing is shoddy, and since you were responsible for writing, directing, and starring in the movie, I can’t really disperse the blame. This is on you, bro. You made a shit movie. You made me have negative thoughts about Michael Peña, and I didn’t think that was possible.
That movie was an absolute trainwreck, Dax. The jokes, dude! God. It’s 2017. What was up with all the homophobia-for-laughs bullshit? And why was eating ass a running joke? And I like Michael Peña way too much to think of him as a sex addict from a bad Porkys sequel sexting with a naked Jane Kaczmarek or fucking women with low self esteem because they’ll do dirty things with him. I’ll admit it was kind of fun seeing your wife as the throwaway asshole in the movie, but why not cast her in the role of the throwaway love interest, so you’re not wasting Rosa Salazar, who is totally wasted, as is Jessica McNamee, whose roles seems to be “Cop with Nice Boobs.”
It wasn’t just bad jokes straight out of terrible 90’s comedies, either. The whole thing was a mess. You’ve got Peña playing Poncherello to your Jon Baker (characters, by the way, from a show that no one really remembers or cares about). Poncherello is an FBI agent, and he’s the wild card, to Baker’s by-the-book fuck-up, a former stunt man turned California Highway Patrol officer who is trying to hold down a job to win back his wife (Bell), who is fucking another man. Poncherello goes undercover as a CHP in order to break up a crew of police officers who are robbing armored trucks, mostly because Raymond Kurtz (Vincent D’Onofrio) wants to raise millions of dollars so he can take his son (Justin Chatwin) out of the country to get him away from his drug problem. (What?) Anyway, half the CHP is in on it, and Poncharello blows his cover about halfway through the movie, but continues on with the investigation anyway. Meanwhile, he and Baker kind of hate each other, but that somehow magically turns when Poncharello accidentally bumps his face into Baker’s naked pubus region. It was like “I’m an angry homophobic!” And then, 20 minutes later, he touches Baker’s penis with his nose, and all of a sudden it’s, “Hey! We’re best friends!”
It makes no fucking sense, but really, little of the movie does (why does the gay cop need to jump from a helicopter to his death to spare his gay armored truck driver? Why does “Gay Terry” have to be such a bad gay stereotype? Why did you have to spend 45 seconds on a close-up of a cat’s ass?) It was also really badly directed from a guy who doesn’t really seem to understand the basics of shooting an action sequence. D’Onofrio actually tries to give a decent performance here, but Dax, you don’t even know how to properly frame a shot, so his best lines were delivered from a weird sideways angle. Granted, the profile of D’Onofrio’s double chin gives a strong performance, bro.
It kind of felt like a movie where you and Kristen convinced a studio to give you $25 million that you didn’t need, so you used the excess to, like, pay your friends to show up. David Koechner has one scene; Ryan Hanson has, like, three scenes; Adam Brody is in it for three or four scenes; Ben Falcone and Jane Kaczmarek show up briefly; Maya Rudolph has a scene for some reason; and Mae Whitman — Shepard’s castmate from Parenthood — shows up for literally 20 seconds to say, “What the fuck?” Even Kristen has barely three scenes before she’s suddenly elevated to hostage that we’re maybe supposed to care about.
I mean, look man: Good on you for going out there and creating a job for yourself. I just kind of wish that maybe you’d let someone else write and direct it, even if it’s just a studio hack, because a studio hack would’ve done a much better job here than you. No offense. And maybe you’re thinking: Elitist critic! But I don’t think I’m speaking just from the critical community here: I am pretty sure audiences are going to roundly reject CHIPs because moviegoers are a lot more in sync with Rotten Tomatoes these days, and last I checked, CHIPs was sitting at a 26 percent, which is honestly much better than it deserves.
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