7/25/2013 - Dead lawmen work off their penance by finding and arresting evil deados in R.I.P.D., a poorly-funded Men in Black knock-off.
Boston police officer Nick (Ryan Reynolds) and his partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon), cough, borrowed some pieces of gold they found while arresting some drug dealers. Even though he buried it in his yard, Nick doesn’t feel good about it and tells Hayes that he plans to turn it in to evidence. You do what you want, Nick tells Hayes, reassuring him that he won’t fink on him. But apparently Hayes doesn’t think that’s enough security and, during a raid of a warehouse full of other drug dealers, Hayes shoots Nick in the face. Dead Nick finds himself in the tunnel, headed toward some kind of final judgment but then, whoosh, he’s sucked into a side vortex and winds up in a nondescript office in a chair across the table from Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). She tells him that his theft of the gold could hurt his chances at heavenly reward and so, to get his record right before judgment, he’s sentenced to spend 100 years in the R.I.P.D. — Rest In Peace Department. There, history’s greatest police officers and other lawmen spend their days hunting down deados, rotten souls who have somehow escaped being sucked into hell. (They never actually say “heaven” or “hell,” as far as I can remember, but it’s the gist.) Nick and his partner, Roy (Jeff Bridges, playing a Looney Tunes version of his Rooster Cogburn character from True Grit), are given new identities — Roy is now a smokin’ hot blonde (Marisa Miller), Nick is character actor James Hong. Even though shoot-first, ask-questions-never Roy claims he doesn’t need a party, Nick soon finds he’s well-suited to this work and even starts to investigate the deado-related mischief involving gold pieces that look very similar to the ones he buried in his backyard.
Anyone remember G vs. E (or Good vs. Evil, as it was also known)? It was on, according to Wikipedia, USA Network and then Sci-Fi, for a total of two seasons. It followed roughly this same plot line — a post-dead group of investigators tracking a post-death group of evil-doers. It was campy and goofy (unlike the more serious and less cop-show-y Dead Like Me on Showtime) and it was totally awesome. R.I.P.D. had that kind of potential. Even with Ryan Reynolds, who, despite Green Lantern, is not always terrible (see also Buried). In fact, it seems that with not too much more effort, the movie could have been delightfully mediocre — sure, there’s an overly processed flavor, but it’s the flavor of cheese and corn and it is junk-foodily satisfying. But somehow, the movie doesn’t quite rise to that very low bar and instead just feels like summer movie punishment of the type that movie critics throughout history will have to endure, for 100 years maybe, until we answer for all of our crimes.
For exactly how this movie falls apart, let’s start with that setup. So, the RIPD, they’re good guys (the greatest lawmen ever, is how Proctor describes them) or they’re more gray-area guys (Nick was, if not a dirty cop, an untidy cop; Roy seems like he was probably a rule-breaker in his day)? Either one makes for interesting plot points but the movie would need to pick one. Or explain why either could be true. Or something. And, aside from their taking up valuable space on Earth, we never really understand why deados, generally speaking, are bad to have on Earth. Or why they are on Earth. Other than a few mentions of “Eternal Affairs,” we don’t really get any setup of mythology of why the RIPD is there and who it is working for. This lazily constructed universe seems to exist solely to get us to the cutesy cop-partner banter of Roy and Nick. Except it’s not so much cutesy as stale. Sure, Bridges is good at high-camp comedy, but the movie gives him very little to do, instead making his character pretty much costume-based. Reynolds, meanwhile, is giving exactly the same auto-pilot performance that he did in Green Lantern with very little in the way of character (development or I’d also take exploration) happening.
R.I.P.D. has all the elements of a very fun C+ movie but somehow can’t get up the speed to earn more than a C-.
Rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality and language including sex references. Directed by Robert Schwentke with a screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi and a story by David Dobkin & Hay & Manfredi, R.I.P.D. is an hour and 36 minutes long and distributed by Universal Pictures.