A laugh-out-loud buddy comedy with lots of heart.
Streaming on HBO | R | 2017 | 1h 42m
Why I watched: The first time, I watched CHIPS just because it looked funny. The second time, I watched it because I've been listening to writer-director-lead actor Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert.
You might also like: Another fun buddy comedy, Tag, streaming on HBO, represents the best the genre has to offer. A group of friends, now in their late 30s, have been playing the same game of tag every May...for their entire lives. It's really silly, but it's also a lot of fun to watch and actually pretty heartwarming. It's based on a true story, and there's footage of the real friends who inspired the movie tagging each other during the end credits. With a cast including the likes of Ed Helms, Jon Hamm, Jeremy Renner, and Isla Fisher, the movie's laughs are real, and its touching moments are extra touching.
I started listening to Dax Shepard's podcast Armchair Expert when the first episode dropped last February. Despite my disappointment that Dax omits the Oxford comma, I've listened to most of the 75 episodes he and cohost / producer Monica Padman have recorded. Over time, you start to get a sense of their network of friends and close acquaintances—mostly other actors and their spouses—and it's kind of fun realizing that these famous people also go to barbecues and kids' birthday parties and play board games with their family friends the way normal people do (it's not all fancy red carpet events). Naturally, Dax has interviewed many of those friends on his podcast—people like Ryan Hansen, Kristen Bell (his wife), Jess Rowland, Vincent D'Onofrio, Josh Duhamel, and more.
After listening to the recent AE episode featuring CHIPS co-star Michael Peña the other day, I decided to re-watch the movie. An amateur racer of motorcycles and fast cars, Dax clearly chose this story to bring to the screen because it involves so many of his favorite things: comedy, motorcycles, and. Well. That's it. What I hadn't realized the first time is that the cast is chock-full of Dax's best friends, too, including the actors I just listed (even Monica, who used to be Shepard's and Bell's babysitter, makes an appearance!). The thing is, these actors are clearly having the time of their lives. During filming, they were all going to work every day with their BFFs, and it shows. The phenomenal cast and the obvious joy they all felt making the film are the best things about CHIPS.
In this flick—based on the the 70s tv show of the same name—rookie California Highway Patrol (CHP) cop Jon (Shepard) partners up with experienced cop Ponch (Peña). Jon, a former professional motorcycle racer, is excellent at riding motorcycles but horrible at absolutely everything else (shooting a target? forgeddaboutit). And because of that, he barely graduated from police academy. In fact, his boss (played by Maya Rudolph) mandated a probationary period during which Jon must have an absolutely stellar record in order to officially, fully become a cop. Ponch, an undercover FBI agent, has a completely opposite agenda. He wants to lay low and investigate the case he came to California to for, which makes it really inconvenient that his new partner wants to stop every 30 seconds to give a traffic ticket.
But Jon turns out to be better at all of this cop stuff than anybody gives him credit for, and—surprising everyone—he and Ponch bond and become best buddies. That's fortunate, since unraveling a gang of corrupt cops is a lot easier when there's at least oneyou know you can trust. Not just fortuitous, their partnership is incredibly entertaining. Jon is sweet, honest, and earnest, and he's hopelessly devoted to his selfish, cheating, estranged wife Karen (Bell). Ponch is jaded, hardened, and sassy, and he's hopelessly addicted to women in general. Somehow, they manage to bring out the best in each other, and watching them bumble their way through their investigation is so fun. Plus, there are some excellent motorcycle chases.
I finished my second viewing convinced that CHIPS has been tragically under appreciated. It's well-written, well-directed, and the acting is great. This armchair expert gives it five stars for fun.
Happy streaming! Grace