CHiPs ’99 (1998)

It’s their road. It’s their rules.

Today we take a turn off the path. CHiPs isn’t a classic movie. In fact it isn’t even a movie at all but one of the many goofy and oddball police dramas of the late 1970s. It is here today only filling the category of guilty pleasure, as it obviously doesn’t fit with our usual subject matter.

In our defense we are actually talking about a movie of sorts here. It is the 1999 made for TV reunion move creatively titled CHiPs ’99. Actually that is an undeserved shot as well as the original series always had the year tacked onto it as well.

Now for the down side. Name a made for TV reunion special that you can’t wait to see once it is announced. Rather hard to name any isn’t it. CHiPs ’99 isn’t any different. All the regular faces are here, albeit grayer and paunchier to various degrees. Erik Estrada, Larry Wilcox, Robert Pine, and most of the rest of the regulars from the series make appearances.

It is good to see them, but as a source of entertainment CHiPs ’99 is flat as a tire. It lacks most of what made the series such a wonderfully enjoyable train wreck (sometimes literally). Ponch (Estrada) and Baker (Wilcox) don’t ride together much. The almost constant deluge of action of the series is absent, with only a few bursts- not nearly enough to keep your attention span and drawing attention to the overall thinness of this effort.

Where is the twenty car pileup and the subplot where Ponch is managing a roller derby team? I actually remember roller derby playing a role in several episodes. The quaint quirkiness with the disco tendency of the original simply isn’t here. The storyline makes little sense, so they did get a few things to match that of the series.

Instead it is a slowly paced and extremely talky imitation of the original. Ponch’s ego is buried deep where no one can find it.  This isn’t the CHiPs you love!

The lovely ladies he usually sexually harassed at a moment’s notice are absent. There is no chemistry between anyone on the screen, and the two guys you want to see together rarely do so.  Though thankfully Wilcox and Estrada seem to be getting along well.  Longtime fans will know of the feuds which eventually leading to Wilcox leaving the original show leaving Ponch to ride the last season with a lesser partner.

Believe it or not, the film is simply boring. If you want the Ponch and Baker of old, get the original series. This pales by comparison.

At the time CHiPs ’99 came out, I thought it was an attempt to reboot the show with a younger cast for a new generation, but hopefully bringing along much of the original fan base. Not sure if that was true or not (perhaps it was just a personal hope). I did like that show so my bias shows!  The show was such a favorite I coined my own phrase- “Well that looks like a CHiPs episode about to happen.”  Feel free to use it any time you see an unbelievably potentially dangerous situation on the road – like someone carting around goats in the back of an open pickup truck or towing a car down an interstate at 70 MPH using only kite string.

In any case it ended up as a one off reunion, probably never to be repeated.

Stranger still, Warner Archive has just released this as part of their eclectic library. Not sure how, if at all, it fits in there, but who cares. I haven’t done a deep dive into their library of late, but a film made in the late 1990s- and a made for TV one at that- has to be one of the most recently made- and oddest inclusions in the entire Archive. Check it out at The WB Shop.

That said, the DVD looks pretty good, but with the limited age the original TNT prints cannot be in overly bad shape. It is a pretty sharp transfer which is hard to disparage. We even get a trailer, though I don’t know where they would have shown it at the time. Who has ever seen a trailer for a TV movie?

CHiPs ’99 is good for a bit of nostalgia but little else. Don’t use this as an introduction to one of the best series of the time for sheer goofy entertainment. Rather, it is only a quaint parting epilogue. Look at this from back in the day!

But I am still glad it is now available.

Review copy provided by Warner Bros. Thanks!

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