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CHiPS: ESCAPISM ON THE FAST TRACK

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.

 

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at leonardmaltin.com. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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