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Avoid the ‘CHIPS’



Catholic News Service

Get your motor running, spring yourself from a cage out on Highway 9, do whatever it takes to get away from the mind-numbing, motorcycle-bedecked comedy “CHIPS.”

Dax Shepard and Michael Pena star in a scene from the movie "Chips." The Catholic News Service classification is O -- morally offensive. (CNS/Warner Bros.)
Dax Shepard and Michael Pena star in a scene from the movie “Chips.” The Catholic News Service classification is O — morally offensive. (CNS/Warner Bros.)

The humor in this twist on the 1977-1983 NBC-TV drama series quickly skids off the road and into the gutter, where it remains.

Dax Shepard, who also wrote and directed, plays rookie California Highway Patrol officer Jon Baker while Michael Pena portrays Jon’s first partner, and odd-couple counterpart, Frank “Ponch” Poncherello. Supposedly a veteran of the force from another part of the state, Ponch is in fact an undercover FBI agent investigating a corruption case.

As Jon makes a nudge of himself and Ponch gripes about it (until of course, the two inevitably bond), the script lurches from one base topic to another. We visit a locker room where the awkwardness of two straight men embracing while dressed only in their underwear is both played for laughs and discussed: Is being uncomfortable with such a gesture symptomatic of homophobia? Yes, no, ha, ha ha.

We stroll through more than one parking lot so that Ponch and the camera can ogle women in yoga pants as they bend over to put something in the trunk. We already know that Ponch is a philanderer since, as the opening sequence has shown us, he has to write down the name of the girl in bed with him lest he forget it in the morning.

That’s not to mention an extended exchange between the two leads on the enthralling question of why Ponch stops to use the bathroom so often.

There’s also a vaguely pro-divorce message to “CHIPS.” Jon, a washed-up extreme-sports motorcyclist, initially becomes a police recruit in an effort to win back his estranged wife, Karen (Kristen Bell), whose dad was a cop. But he eventually discovers, with Ponch’s help, that Karen is so selfish and greedy, he’s better off without her.

Since juvenile potty and bedroom gags must nowadays be rounded out with nauseating visuals, late developments include the decapitation of one character and the loss of four fingers by another. Lavish attention is paid to the bloody stumps as well as to the dismembered digits lying about like so many stubby breadsticks.

Our advice? Let these “CHIPS” fall where they may. And leave them there.

The film contains scenes of gross-out gore, strong sexual content, including brief graphic activity, masturbation and full male and female nudity, much sexual and scatological humor, frequent profanity and pervasive rough and crude language. The Catholic News Service classification is O, morally offensive. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is R — restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.