R.I.P.D., adapted from the Dark Horse Entertainment comic book series, follows Boston police detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) who is killed in the line of duty during a routine drug bust. Though, as Walker ascends into the heavens, prepared to face judgment, he’s recruited by the Rest in Peace Department – a supernatural agency designed to hunt down deceased souls that have escaped from the afterlife. Walker gets partnered with ornery former lawman, and R.I.P.D. veteran, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges) – a lone wolf who begrudgingly takes the newly deceased “rookie” under his wing.
Survived by his wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak) and partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), Walker has trouble letting go of is former life and fully accepting his new role hunting “Deados.” However, when an escaped stiff leads the partners to evidence suggesting an imminent threat to the R.I.P.D., Walker must put aside his personal desires to help prevent a catastrophic event that would shatter the balance between life and death on Earth.
For many moviegoers, the R.I.P.D. trailers suggested a supernatural buddy cop action-comedy in the vein of Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black series – trading aliens for Deado monstrosities as well as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones for Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges. Unfortunately, where a paranormal variation on Men in Black-style moviegoing could provide a captivating viewing experience, R.I.P.D. is an inferior film in nearly every single way imaginable – one that isn’t likely to satisfy anyone but exceptionally forgiving audience members who can overlook the clumsy script, outdated CGI visuals, and sophomoric humor.
Instead of creating and developing a fresh new franchise world, the R.I.P.D. story haphazardly throws Walker into the afterlife without worthwhile setup for anything more than one ridiculous (and ugly looking) CGI chase after another – punctuated by a hit or miss blend of flat jokes that range from fart noises and sex gags to awkward character interactions that are more weird than they are funny. The larger plot elements, scripted by Clash of the Titans writers Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, are arbitrarily stitched together in an effort to keep the zany ideas contained under a single narrative through line. As a means to move the story from Point A to B, the plot is serviceable but few of the characters or narrative components are developed beyond basic one-note cogs in the machine. Worst of all, the supernatural elements are a wasted opportunity – jumbled inside frenetic action sequences without properly establishing the “rules” of the R.I.P.D. universe.
The result is an oftentimes-confusing clutter that forces audience members to learn paranormal mechanics on the fly. As an example, one sequence expects viewers to differentiate between what everyday people see (an aging old Chinese man holding a banana) and what is actually happening (Ryan Reynolds shooting a R.I.P.D. issue gun), but fails to establish whether or not monsters are visible to living eyes ahead of time. For that reason, audience members who are not informed R.I.P.D. comic book readers will have to make sense of several sequences that the film doesn’t bother to properly set up.
Even though their characters are mostly one-note caricatures, an enjoyable dynamic between Reynolds and Bridges helps to inject some genuine entertainment in an otherwise clumsy production. Director Robert Schwentke, known best for surprising audiences with his 2010 action-comedy RED, uses his two leads to solid effect – managing to salvage the experience with some fun (and downright bizarre) odd couple antics. Still, neither role provides either performer much room for experimentation: both Reynolds and Bridges are simply replicating prior entries in their filmography as basic hunky and crotchety character tropes, respectively.
Similarly, Mary-Louise Parker offers a fun performance as the R.I.P.D.’s Proctor – serving as an intriguing foil to Bridges’ Pulsipher, especially. Proctor’s overall contribution is thin, another quirky piece of the puzzle without any substantial development, but her scenes are some of the more amusing additions – if for no other reason than they are also some of the strangest. Conversely, Kevin Bacon’s presence is entirely wasted – unceremoniously included to help drive the plot forward but void of any nuance. In the past, Bacon has shined in similar parts and his flat characterization is likely the result of panicked post-production trimming (considering the film’s brief 96-minute runtime).
Yet, easily the most disappointing element of R.I.P.D. is the downright dated CGI effects – which harken back to plastic-looking creatures of the late 1990s. Even inanimate objects, such as gears in a massive R.I.P.D. vault, lack the polish of modern CGI effects – especially considering the film’s reported $130 million production budget. Fast-moving actions sequences help hide the disconnect between green screen environments, CGI monsters, as well as real-life actors and props – but the scenes are so frantic that it’s hard to appreciate the moment-to-moment hijinks. In addition, the Deados are surprisingly generic – as if Schwentke and his design team thought contorted heads and extra arms would be enough for memorable and creepy movie monsters. Instead, the twisted creatures are distracting, made even worse by those cartoony CGI effects.
R.I.P.D. is playing in 2D and 3D theaters and there’s absolutely no reason to purchase a premium ticket this round. The 3D effect is negligible and unlikely to satisfy any 3D viewer – whether they enjoy in-your-face 3D pop out or the subtle depth-of-field approach. Post-converted 3D can be effective, but in the case of R.I.P.D., it’s clear 3D was added to help generate extra box office revenue – and the premium up charge does not result in a more immersive or rewarding viewing experience.
Overall, R.I.P.D. is a poor iteration on similar action comedy offerings – with a brainless and mostly unfunny script, awkward visuals, as well as underdeveloped characters. Competent performances from the leads provide a handful of entertaining exchanges but the execution of larger plot beats and subpar onscreen presentation undercuts any of the film’s successes. Forgiving viewers (and Deados) may find some enjoyment in R.I.P.D. but the film is so choppy and half-baked that living, thinking, moviegoers are better off letting this one rest in peace.
If you’re still on the fence about R.I.P.D., check out the trailer below:
R.I.P.D. runs 96 minutes and is Rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references. Now playing in 2D and 3D theaters.
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