CHIPS motors onto Blu-ray
By Jim Bray
It's a blast from the past, kind of, as the "classic" TV show CHIPS makes its way to moviedom thanks to writer/director/star Dax Shepard's remaking of the series. It's also foul mouthed in the extreme and so full of sexual talk and innuendo - hetero and homo - that kids should probably be kept far away from it.
Other than that, CHIPS would be a decent cop/buddy flick and it does boast good performances and some pretty cool stunting. Heck, I even liked Michael Pena's new Camaro, which is a really great looking muscle car - and I haven't found a Camaro particularly attractive since the 1969 model.
Pena's Ponch (as opposed to Bray's paunch, I suppose…) is an undercover FBI agent sent to smoke out some bad cops in the California Highway Patrol. He joins up with misfit CHP rookie Jon Baker (writer/director/star Shepard), whose only real skill is as a motorcycle stunter and who's trying to put his life together so his estranged wife will love him again, or respect him again, or something.
We get treated to lots of gunfire, a whole bunch of swearing and sex stuff, and a story that's better than I had expected going in. Now, to be fair and honest, I must mention that I never saw the Larry Wilcox/Erik Estrada original (Estrada shows up at the end of this movie, too, in an uncredited cameo) so I have nothing on which to base an opinion about how faitful it is to that old show. I'd guess that it isn't very faithful, though, at least as far as the cussin' and sexin' are concerned.
That cussin' and sexin' really do get in the way of the entertainment value, and neither was really needed other than, it seems, to get the director the "R" rating he says in the supplements that he was looking for. Too bad, because there's quite a bit to like here otherwise.
So, while CHIPS isn't really a bad movie, it certainly missed some opportunities. On the other hand, this is really a kind of "origin story," so if it had been more successful (IMDB indicates it didn't make back its budget and the fact that it was only released theatrically three months ago doesn't portend plentiful profitability) there might have been opportunities to explore the character relationships beyond bike hooning and meat beating. Oh, well.
It isn't as if I wanted to shut the thing off half way through - high praise, eh? - rather than sit through it, and the story did in fact keep me interested for its duration, so while I can't really recommend the movie it could at least be worth a rental if you can find such an outlet these days.
As a Blu-ray, CHIPS is much better - very good, indeed. Shot digitally, the 1080p (1.85:1) picture quality is outstanding, so much so that I wish Warner Brothers had sent a 4K version instead. Colours are rich and bright and deep and detail is outstanding. I watched it on a Panasonic 4K TV, switching between 1080p and up converted 4K (thanks for Oppo Digital's new UDP-205 universal 4K player - and watch for my review of this over the next few weeks) and it looked great both ways - though (perhaps not surprisingly) I preferred the 4K treatment.
Fortunately, accompanying the excellent video quality is audio that really, really rocks! It's presented in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and it's so loud I had to turn down the Rotel RAP-1580 I'm using (watch for my upcoming review of it as well). I generally run the volume at a default of 75 on Rotel's volume control scale but I had to turn it down to 70 and even then it still rocked the room and annoyed the neighbours. It was great! Especially the annoying the neighbours part.
Indeed, all of your speakers will get a fine workout with CHIPS, and if you like tight bass that'll shake the pictures on your walls, this is the movie for you.
Warner Brothers Blu-ray package also includes a DVD version and "Ultraviolet" digital copy code.
Extras look into various aspects of the production, including the awesome Ducati bikes that really should have gotten co-star billing. "This is not your Dad's CHiPs" explains writer/director Shepard's rationale for seeking an R rating, while other features look at the practical effects and extremely cool camera vehicles. There's also a commentary track with the director and 10 deleted scenes that deserved their fate.
Besides good acting from a good cast, the best things about CHIPS are the vehicles - two and four wheeled - and the stunts, though there are some pretty good oldie songs on hand as well. But the movie would benefit from less gross out stuff and, in fact, were it not for that stuff this would be a far more compelling movie than it ended up being. It's too bad.
Copyright 2017 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.