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CHIPS (Blu-ray Review)

Cinema is no stranger to taking the older, dated classic television program that there may or may not be a nostalgia for and turning it into a comedy film. Heck, CHIPS here isn’t even the only one this year; there’s also Baywatch from this summer. However, Baywatch plays the self aware game akin to 21 Jump Street. However, both Baywatch and CHIPS didn’t really find the success they intended to at the box office. With poor reviews and no one showing up, we’ll not see a 2nd CHIPS effort. But, if you’re like most of America and missed it in theaters, you get a chance to see what all the no buzz was about on June 27th. Telling, too, is the fact that they forewent putting this on the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format opting for standard only.

Film 

Jon Baker and Frank “Ponch” Poncherello have just joined the California Highway Patrol (CHP) in Los Angeles, but for very different reasons. Baker is a beaten-up former pro motorbiker trying to put his life and marriage back together. Poncherello is a cocky undercover Federal agent investigating a multi-million-dollarheist that may be an inside job—inside the CHP.  The inexperienced rookie and the hardened pro are teamed together, but clash more than click, so kick-starting a real partnership is easier said than done.  But with Baker’s unique bike skills and Ponch’s street savvy it might just work…if they don’t drive each other crazy first.

CHIPS easily earns it R rating, but surprisingly not with raunchy, lewd or vulgar jokes. Don’t get me wrong, those are very present, but overshadowing them is how crazy violent and graphic this film is. Most of it is played for laughs, but some of it is a bit shocking and surprisingly and you might not be laughing about it. I’m not one bothered or shocked by violence, but I will say I wasn’t expecting this kind of material from this movie. Oh, and they don’t shy away from the explosions or ones of the vehicular type with minimum impact.

CHIPS has a pretty game cast, but its script or improvisation must not have been working well when making the film. Michael Pena and Dax Shepard really are ideal for these roles and share some great chemistry. The humor here is full of stuff that’s a bit tired, unfunny to begin with, or is trying to hard to make some sort of catch-phrase type joke scenes on things that aren’t too amusing.  Like a lot of failed comedies, some of the better stuff was already given away in the film’s marketing. And when you already know the punchlines and add that to material that isn’t that funny, its a bit of a silent watch for a comedy film. I snickered here and there, but that’s bound to happen when jokes are thrown at you constantly. The length of time between snickers, that’s what really matters here.

The film relies heavily on the action. There is plenty of it. Some of the chases are good, some of the shootouts are decent enough. But over all the action is very much static. Oddly, watching it, it feels like the film could have been directed, shot or edited by multiple people. There isn’t a cohesion or fluidity between all of it. And no, its not a choice or “trying to be original” choice here, it feels like there’s a different voice giving us this movie. The inbetween scenes feature a little of this, but the action is where I took note the most.

Its reputation it had is pretty much what it is. I’d say its a hair better, but the film was pretty much what I was expecting. No need to say it’s a little better than the bad it was labeled and its still bad. Blah, its bad and you really don’t need to venture out to see it. But, if there was a good place for this film to have a better chance or to be taken lighter, its on home video.

Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1

Layers: BD-50

Clarity/Detail: CHIP drops on Blu-ray with an expected more vivid and warm feeling image. Details are strong and rock solid as you look at naked human bodies, road surfaces, bloodied up shot parts of people and more. Its a sharp image and one that’s pretty strong. Its okay in the three dimensional department, which is probably what keeps this one more toward the standard look of things. Overall though, I’m not really sure if there’s much to complain about on this one.

Depth:  Some solid depth work here. Movements are smooth and cinematic while the camera work comes on steady and clearly. Foreground objects and people feel a good separation from their background counterparts with a little bit of a push back feel to them.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and rich with no signs of crushing during this viewing. Shading and darks are saturated well, adding to the fullness while not striking away and necessary or the intended visual details on the screen.

Color Reproduction: While this movie features a lot of brown and some naturality and long desert highway stretches, colors like blue, yellow and read pop out and play for keeps. Orange roasts your screen whenever a fire or explosion is present.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are good, full looking and natural with a consistency from scene to scene all for the duration of the film. Facial details like stubble, make-up, lip texture, freckles, scars, tattoos, wrinkles and bruising all flash high quality detail in medium and close up shots.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean

Audio 

Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English 5.1 Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics: CHIPS rev’s up for a pretty thunderous experience. Its a very loud movie, especially in the action department and will keep you awake and on your toes at every turn. Vocals, effects and the score all get their time to shine and take center stage while still feeling really loose, balanced and free of one another. The effects are well rounded with some good depth as well. Its a poundingly fun track.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: Engines rev’ing, bursting explosions, gunfire, crashing, punches and the booming music all really get the subwoofer to bring the hammer down and rock the room.

Surround Sound Presentation: Sound travel, movement and placement to a character’s distance on screen are all very accurate. Rear speaker get to join in on the fun during more elaborate action sequences, but also hang back a lot to provide environment ambiance.

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are loud and clear, with good clarity and attention to diction.

Extras 

CHIPS comes with the DVD edition and an Ultraviolet digital copy.

This Is Not Your Dad’s CHIPS (HD, 9:04) – This one talks about Dax Shepard’s writing the movie, casting and working with different cast mates and the humor on the film. Features interviews from the cast.

Practical Pursuit (HD, 9:15) – A featurette on the stuntwork in the film that focuses on the film’s dedication to making everything real. Dax Shepard opens with his admiration for practical stunts and effects in a film and how digital takes him out of a movie.

Ducati: The Perfect Bike (HD, 4:38) – Focuses on the Ducati bikes featured in the film. Dax says his script was driven by first picking the kind of motorcycle they would ride in it.

Deleted Scenes with optional Dax Shepard Intro (HD, 14:58) 

Summary 

CHIPS isn’t very good, but at least its somewhat entertaining and times and has some of the right things in place. This Blu-ray features a strong performance from the audio and the video.  Extras are pretty solid and refreshingly not overdone. With comedies there can be so much excess. Though, had this movie been a hit, we probably would have been treated to that. This one is at best a rental until you can find it in the Walmart $5 bin if you’re determined to own it.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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