The reboot of the 70s and 80s cop show ‘CHiPs’ is being slammed as homophobic, with critics taking aim at the ‘gay panic’ gags that appear to litter the script.
The movie, written and directed by Dax Shepard, finds his California Highway Patrolman Jon Baker partnered with Michael Peña’s sex obsessed Frank ‘Ponch’ Poncherello, actually an undercover FBI agent tasked with rooting out corruption.
But many critics have taken issue with the fact that its intended knockabout, NSFW humour belies something more serious.
In an article for movie website The Wrap, Matt Donnelly really tears strips off the movie, accusing it of ‘roiling with gay panic, or scenes where straight characters are distressed by social or sexual situations involving LGBTQ people’.
“The buddy comedy — set amid the culture of a Southern California police force — seems to endlessly dredge up scenarios where men are confronted with the naked bodies, perceived masculinity and potential desire for other men,” he goes on.
“In their first meeting, Ponch is confronted with a glory shot of Baker’s bulge in tighty whities in the police locker room, where other bros engage in bare-chested hugs and the camera watches the many bulges bounce off each another as Ponch’s face twists in horror.”
Donnelly also picks up on another scene in which Peña’s Ponch faceplants into Baker’s crotch, ‘a fate worse than death, apparently’.
“This not to say that Shepard, who wrote and directed the feature film adaptation, means the LGBT community harm in his comedic approach — the script includes some interesting conversations about men and sexuality, though none remove the sting of cheap laughs at the expense of homosexuals.”
The Back2Stonewall website spotted issues with the movie’s trailer back in January. “Worst line in the trailer: ‘If you’re homophobic or whatever, that’s cool,’” it pointed out. “No. No, it’s not. And neither is this trailer.”
Most other reviews make note of the film’s clumsy treatment of homosexuality too.
“The writing is so muddy, even the basic trajectories of their jokes are unintelligible,” writes Robbie Collin in a one-star review for the Daily Telegraph.
“It’s never clear, for instance, if Ponch’s homophobic rants are supposed to be funny because they’re non-PC or amusingly pathetic, or because they ironically mark him out as a closet case.”
Justin Chang in the LA Times also makes reference to the film’s ‘tiresome gay-panic gross out moments’.
Meanwhile Frank Scheck in The Hollywood Reporter writes: “A puerile combination of raunchy sex comedy and bland action vehicle, CHIPS will likely manage the difficult feat of simultaneously alienating fans of the original series and newcomers who will wonder why a buddy-cop comedy displays so much homosexual panic.”
It’s out across the UK now.