Everything you need to know about the Hollywood reboot of CHiPs can be summarized in the first words the audience sees on the movie screen: "The California Highway Patrol does not endorse this film. At all."
On the 40th anniversary of TV's show debut in 1977, Dax Shepard (who wrote, directs and co-stars) has created a modern-day take on the daring motorcycle duo that is more groan than grown-up. And that likely will have hardcore CHiPs fans speeding for the exits.
Granted the TV series was designed as family entertainment in an era when Little House on the Prairie and Happy Days still ruled the rabbit ears. These days, fans want their '80s law enforcement reboots — 21 Jump Street, Miami Vice and this summer's Baywatch — primed with a lot more pyrotechnics, profanity and … well, let's pause the alliteration and just say a lot more nudity.
Shepard and Michael Peña are officers Jon Baker and Francis "Frank" Llewellyn "Ponch" Poncherello — yes, the long name still gets snickers in the movie version — taking over for their beloved TV counterparts Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada.
Their personal scars have been updated for the 21st century as well. Baker is a ex-motorbike star addicted to pain killers and the hopeless pursuit of his hateful estranged wife (played by Shepard's real-world wife, Kristen Bell). Ponch is an FBI agent assigned to go undercover in the CHP partly as punishment for an overactive sex drive.
They might not like each other much at first — this being the very blueprint of a cop buddy flick — but something inside reassures us they'll be BFFs before the closing credits.
In the meantime, it's up to our heroes to find some crooked cops in the ranks of the California Highway Patrol. (Here's a hot tip, officers: Always look for the guy who best resembles Vincent D'Onofrio, who gives the most determined performance of the flick.)
Sure, the plot is paper thin like most reboots, but CHiPs is less about the story and more about the special effects and stunt riding, which are jaw-dropping. Attempting to hold it all together are a never-ending string of wincingly groin-pounding jokes that race from colitis to masturbation as quickly as a Ducati motorbike can go from zero to 60.
If that's not your cup of tea — or Red Bull these days — then CHiPs is unsafe at any speed. But for fans of the shock-and-guffaw physical comedy that seems to clog the cinematic freeways these days, maybe it's fair to let Shepard and company off with a verbal warning this time.
Stay safe out there, fellas.