While it may not make the short-list for Oscar consideration this year, CHiPs is definitely fun to watch. Unlike some contrived or cynical rehashes of old TV series, this one has no pretensions. It’s escapism with a capital E: a funny, energetic, enjoyably ragged buddy movie with lots and lots of car-chase action. It also serves as a showcase for the charismatic Dax Shepard and the always-impressive Michael Peña, whose comedic chops are put to great use.
The story is pretty basic: hardened Florida FBI agent Peña is sent to sunny Southern California and planted undercover in the Highway Patrol in order to ferret out some dirty cops. He’s teamed up with a rookie fresh out of the Academy–who happens to be a former motocross champ. Peña has no patience for Shepard’s upbeat personality and Dudley Do-Right attitude. They are The Odd Couple on wheels.
If you saw actor Shepard’s debut feature as writer and co-director, Hit and Run (2012), you know he loves to stage intricate chase scenes and perform as many of his own stunts as possible. He and his talented team of friends avoid CGI in favor of the real thing, no matter how difficult that may be. This time around he had control (as sole writer and director), a bigger budget and a larger canvas; the results should please action junkies and comedy fans alike.
The movie is peppered with talented actors and comedians in supporting roles and cameo appearances–including Shepard’s previous co-stars and family members. This could be a tired gimmick if the players didn’t come through but Maya Rudolph, Adam Brody, Jane Kaczmarek, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. and Shepard’s real-life spouse Kristen Bell provide some of the movie’s funniest moments.
CHiPS promises audiences a good time…and delivers.