Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 5/10
Cast: Michael Peña, Dax Shepard, Jessica McNamee, Adam Brody, Ryan Hansen, Justin Chatwin, Kirsten Bell, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rosa Salazar, Maya Rudolph, Adam Rodriguez, Richard T. Jones, Ben Falcone, Jane Kacmarek, Angelique Kenney, Vida Guerra, Mara Marini, Isaiah Whitlock Jr, Kelly Richardson, Jackie Tohn, Arturo del Puerto, Katie McCabe, April Martucci, Carly Hatter, Erik Estrada.
Like many well liked, perhaps in some cases adored, institutions, the 21st Century has a way with knocking what was a good television series out of shape almost to the point of ridicule; the lack of cohesion between one and the other is almost painful in some quarters and those that make the transition can overload the senses and have you reaching for the original like a comfort blanket. This sense of undisguised parody makes you wonder just how far television and cinema are willing to go to stretch a pound or draw out a dollar.
Parody is one thing, when a film almost gets it right, that for half the time on screen you can feel the love of the nostalgic wave wash over you and for the half the sweeping gesture of incredulity, it is possible to feel both love and antagonism at the same time; like supporting the team in the Cup Final who knocked you out but only because the opposition is your greatest rival, something’s are best having not been experienced.
In the case of CHiPs, the much loved Californian Highway Patrol, Dax Shepard does his best to hold onto what was that cared for institution and in some charming moments the film succeeds, it may be seen as formulaic but it reaches into the parts of the film lover that can only be appreciated. Yet somehow, underneath that charm lands a series of blows that can only be seen as crude, undeserving and even perhaps shameful to the memory of a series that never descended into the vulgar; it is even too much perhaps to believe for a single minute that the film could be seen in the same light as National Lampoon.
Such is the mix between charm, attention grabbing stunts and a deserving plot, and ridicule, despondency and false magnetism that the wave of good honest story is lost in the art of foul expression.
When CHiPs works, it works well, when it is allowed to fall apart the smell of potatoes taking a battering is overwhelming. In the more brotherly and sensitive moments between Michael Peña and Dax Shepard as Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello and Jon Baker, the scenes play out with drama, with style, when they decide to go down the route best left to the antics of third form school boys who have just found girls interesting, it is anarchy, and not even the type that you want to cheer and urge the standing up to of non- respectable Government.
Such is the bitter thread of playing with an institution, if you are going to parody a series then do so with grace, there is no need to make you care for part of the film and see the other half destroy your faith in cinema.
Ian D. Hall