July 23, 2013


In R.I.P.D., Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is betrayed and killed by his corrupt, greedy partner (Kevin Bacon, who's an obvious, forgettable bad guy in this) during a shootout with some drug dealers. Nick is surprised to find himself in a sterile, white office room sitting in front of an appropriately bureaucratic-looking desk jockey (Mary-Louise Parker) named Mildred Proctor. Proctor informs Nick that his services are desired by the Rest in Peace Department, a massive afterlife law enforcement unit comprised of dead cops who hunt down evil spirits roaming the cities with all the living folk.

There's not much of a choice for Nick here: he can serve the R.I.P.D. for 100 years and then go to heaven, or be sent to hell for eternity. Nick is assigned with a grizzled, no-nonsense former marshal named Roy (Jeff Bridges), who is naturally opposed to having a partner, being a relic of the Wild West. But since R.I.P.D. is a tired film that's barely interested in its own story, Roy doesn't put up anything more than a half-hearted fight against the insistent Mildred, with whom--we're led to believe--he is romantically involved. And soon the two partners are off looking for some pieces of gold that apparently make up "the staff of Jericho," which, if re-assembled, will allow the dead to freely roam the earth and spell the end of humankind and the planet as we know it. I love movies with such dire, overwhelmingly apocalyptic consequences at stake. (And by that I mean, I hate them.)

R.I.P.D. was a first for me: it was the first time I have ever found Jeff Bridges thoroughly irritating. He talks incessantly, cracks jokes that generally miss their mark, and drives his younger partner insane with his inane ramblings. Ryan Reynolds, as though in deference to the legendary actor next to him, seems to be on mute. He tones down his sarcastic personality and merely reacts to Bridges' mugging on our behalf, even punching him in the face after he's had all that he can take. This was the one moment in the movie during which I felt eternally grateful.

There are plenty of movies from which R.I.P.D. snatches themes and plot lines and jokes: Ghostbusters, Beetle Juice and Men in Black all come to mind. It's like a washed-up mishmash of those films. And let's remember that Beetle Juice had a marvelous comic energy to it, and Men in Black was sufficiently weird and colorful enough to be fun, and Ghostusters had Bill Murray's perfect, deadpan timing. R.I.P.D. has none of these qualities. These aren't the monsters you're looking for. It's based on a comic book by Peter Lenkov.

This is mindless summer fare at its worst, seemingly concocted by adult children who get off on seeing how many things they can blow up. ("And it's gonna be funny, too! Because, you know, Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges!") And suddenly I realize my own culpability here: by paying to see this wretched movie, I contribute to the false message--interpreted by the studio heads who fund this crap--that I like the one-explosion/destruction-scene-after-another plot-line. The question I have is: how can anyone still find explosion scenes interesting? They have been done to death, and they're done to death in R.I.P.D., and no that's not a pun.

Of course, where would we be without a romantic entanglement? We've got to have a romantic entanglement. Aha! Ryan Reynolds has a wife he left behind. Oh, but there's one little problem: the living will not recognize the dead police officers, who appear totally different than they are. For example, Jeff Bridges looks like Jeff Bridges to us, but to the people in the movie, he appears as a sexy blonde in a long, tight dress. Ryan Reynolds manifests himself as an elderly Chinese man. This means that approaching his widow with comments such as "Julia, it's me! I've never left you!" come off as creepy, not sentimental. This rule confused me: why did the ghosts sometimes see them as their "avatars" and sometimes not? Consistency is a dish best served...consistently.

The worst thing about R.I.P.D. is that it seems so bored with itself. There are lots of jokes coming out of the mouths of our heroes, but they dissolve in the air like vapor. The plot feels unashamedly frayed and faded like a T-shirt that's been through the wash too many times, and the actors don't appear to have the confidence to do anything original or exciting or fun. And what with Jeff Bridges grating on the nerves and Ryan Reynolds acting like a kid tiptoeing through the halls of the house at night, afraid to wake up his dad, the movie is a deadly affair indeed. Directed by Robert Schwentke. With Stephanie Szostak (as Nick's wife), Robert Knepper, James Hong, Mike O'Malley, and Marissa Miller. ½

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