It's clear from the very start that this movie has little to do with the 1977-1983 beloved hit TV series. Firstly, the film ignores the capitalisation that would make sense of the title. And the main characters, while they have familiar names, are completely different people. So fans of the show will be justifiably angry that it has been merely referenced to make a half-hearted mash-up of The Hangover and Fast & Furious. Which might not be a bad idea if the gross-out comedy was funny and the action was even remotely thrilling.
In this version, Poncharello is the undercover name assigned to a Miami FBI agent (Michael Pena) who is sent to Los Angeles to investigate a string of armoured car robberies that might involve dirty cops. He is partnered with officer Jon Baker (Dax Shepard) riding motorcycles with the California Highway Patrol (they're CHiPs, not Chips). Jon is a former hotshot off-road motorbike champ who has broken every bone in his body and has only joined the police to try to win back his estranged, monstrous wife (Kristen Bell). But he's such a high-energy idiot that he's starting the job on probation. As their case develops, it's instantly clear that the mastermind is the villainous officer Kurtz (Vincent D'Onofrio). And their investigation is complicated by the arrival of Ponch's FBI boss (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and partner (Adam Brody).
The lazy script never tries to crank up any real mystery or tension in the plot. Instead, the film is just a series of smutty jokes and incoherent stunt sequences, plus running gags that never reach a punchline. All of this is infused with relentless sexism, as the camera leers shamelessly at every woman. And the laddish misogyny is accompanied by constant homophobia, which is addressed in the dialogue in a feeble attempt to undercut the baldfaced bigotry. This makes all of the characters resolutely unlikeable. Ponch and Jon are such self-absorbed jerks that it's inconceivable that they would ever be allowed to be policemen.
Continue reading: Chips Review
The filmmakers behind this pre-teen adventure admit that they were trying to combine the magic of E.T., Stand by Me and The Goonies, but they've forgotten that none of those complex, deeply involving classics ever talk down to their audience. By contrast, this movie is painful viewing for anyone over about age 12, as it indulges in shamelessly cute imagery, seasick hand-held camerawork and superficial emotional catharsis.
It's set in rural Nevada, where a new freeway is cutting through a suburban community, forcing families to relocate, which is devastating to three 13-year-old pals who grew up together. Tuck (Brian Bradley, better known as the rapper Astro) decides to videotape their last night together, as he teams up with Munch and Alex (Reese Hartwig and Teo Halm) to investigate some mysterious images on their phones, which seem to be leading them out into the desert. There they find a chunk of steel that takes them on a scavenger hunt, adding bits and pieces until it emerges as an adorable owl-shaped alien, which the boys name Echo. Inexplicably joined by hot girl Emma (Ella Wallestedt), who won't give them the time of day in school, they spend the night trying to outwit the freeway construction boss (Jason Gray-Sanford) and help Echo get home.
Most of these kinds of films sink or swim on the talent of their young actors, but it's impossible to tell how good these actors are, since first-time feature director Dave Green directs them to over-stated performances while forcing them to deliver first-time feature writer Henry Gayden's ridiculously trite dialogue. Every moment of "wonder" is so heavily telegraphed and pushed that any sense of discovery is lost. Even their school-nerd personas are contrived and unbelievable, as is Tuck's ability to capture every significant moment with one of his gadgety cameras, even in moments of high panic. The idea of him shooting and editing their last night together, which turns out to be rather enormously momentous, is a clever one, but the added melodramatic touches undermine the plot by trying to force it into a standard adventure formula.
Continue reading: Earth To Echo Review
Audiences out for a bit of mindless fun will probably enjoy this raucous road movie, but only if they can look past comedy that relies on jokes about racism, sexism and homophobia. And if the characters are all paper-thin, at least the film is loose and enjoyably silly.
It centres on Charlie (Shepard), who lives in rural California with his girlfriend Annie (Bell). But when she's offered a job in Los Angeles, Charlie has to face up to his criminal past. He's currently in witness protection, and returning to L.A. is very dangerous. Still, he decides to take Annie to her job interview, while his protective agent (Arnold) follows close behind. But trouble is brewing because Annie's still-smitten ex (Rosenbaum) is also in hot pursuit, and when he figures out Charlie's secret, he gets in touch with the gang boss, Alex (Cooper), who wants him dead.
While the film looks whizzy and is packed with banter that sounds offensive, everything is pretty half-hearted. The dialog continually touches on sexuality and ethnicity in ways that are more lazy than inappropriate, and the discussions of serious issues like gender roles have no depth at all. This is a movie essentially made up of nothing but stereotypes. Bell and Cooper just about manage to give their characters personalities, but everyone else has essentially one note. Most of the men are mere chucklehead idiots, while the women are male fantasies.
Continue reading: Hit & Run Review
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