CHiPs tries to appeal to nostalgia, but based on its trailer, the movie just looks like a bad comedy exploiting a familiar brand name.
Cashing in on nostalgia is a cottage industry for Hollywood, with movie studios always trying to capitalize on a brand or familiar name — ideally with a modernized or satiric take. Later this spring, for instance, we’ll see a Baywatch movie starring Dwayne Johnson and Zac Efron. Two months before that, however, we’ll get a movie version of CHiPs, a name that might not be quite as familiar with current audiences.
CHiPs, a nickname for California Highway Patrol, ran on NBC from 1977 to 1983. The show followed two motorcycle officers named Frank “Ponch” Poncherello (played by Erik Estrada) and Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox). The tone was pretty light-hearted, mostly comedic with maybe a few dramatic elements. Each episode was basically Ponch and Jon responding to a pile-up on the highway. Warner Brothers has apparently been trying to develop a CHiPs movie for the past 10 years.
Thanks to Dax Shepard (Parenthood), we now have one. The comedic actor wrote and directed the film, and stars as Jon Baker. Stepping into Ponch’s knee-high boots is Michael Pena (Ant-Man), who’s leaned toward more comedic roles recently in his career. The first trailer for CHiPs was released Wednesday night, during Jimmy Kimmel Live. Take a look:
Well, you might want those three minutes of your life back. Like most corners of the pop culture internet, we typically get pretty excited about movie trailers here at The Comeback. (And as an older fella, I even have some childhood nostalgia for the old TV show.) But CHiPs looks pretty bad. Shepard has said in interviews that he didn’t want to create an outright spoof, like 2004’s Starsky & Hutch with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson. The tone he was going for was more along the lines of Bad Boys and Lethal Weapon. Maybe he did just that, and the trailer doesn’t quite reflect it.
Above all, this CHiPs trailer just makes me yearn for the old show, which probably wasn’t even very good. But it holds a special nostalgic place in my pop culture heart. Especially that theme song. The new movie absolutely needs to have some variation on this. Try to get the CHiPs theme out of your head for the rest of the day.
The most disappointing aspect to this is that Shepard often appears to go for the easy joke — especially with its unfortunate homophobic line of humor with Pena’s character. Maybe that’s something which gets resolved during the course of the movie, which the trailer seems to imply.
As an actor of some acclaim, Pena deserves better. (Though he also caught some flack for what many saw as a Latino caricature in Ant-Man.) Pena isn’t quite the Latin heartthrob type that Erik Estrada was in his day, but he’s a bigger name with more credibility than, say, Wilmer Valderrama (who was attached to a CHiPs movie back in 2005). Ten to 12 years ago, maybe Benjamin Bratt could have filled the role. But there is something to be said for him getting a lead role in a big-budget comedy, and that probably shouldn’t be overlooked.
A poster for CHiPs was also released, which you can see below. This rolls into theaters on March 24.