R.I.P.D. – yet another brainless summer blockbuster to provide theater-goers an hour and a half worth of sweet, sweet air-conditioned entertainment. In other words, it’s nothing but a flashy time-waster commissioned as a cash-grabbing distraction.
The good news is, Robert Schwentke’s film didn’t absolutely suck like I thought it would, given the lack of pre-screenings and sudden flooding of negative reviews. The bad news is, Men in Black 4 is still another mess of a “popcorn-popper,” filled with terrible CGI, cheesy scripting, and zero depth. It’s like if you bit into an M&M only to find they forgot to fill the delicious candy shell with chocolate. You still get the sugar rush – but with none of the substance. Wait, Men in Black 4? Sorry, I meant R.I.P.D. – although the titles are pretty interchangeable based on this undead buddy cop’s makeup.
So what is the R.I.P.D.? Well, as Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) finds out after being killed by his double-crossing partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), it’s an elite group of lawmakers who have been cut down in their prime, tasked with protecting the living world from “dead-ohs” (dead humans who refuse to move on to the afterlife). If you die, and you try to hide out on Earth to avoid going to either heaven or hell, it’s the R.I.P.D. who are bringing you in.
Teaming up with a gun-slinging lawman from the 1800s, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), the two officers begin Nick’s training as an undead cop. Unlike Walker’s body when he was still alive, an R.I.P.D. officer has a little more flexibility with their actions. They’re extremely durable, obviously because they’re dead already, they possess weaponry that erases “dead-ohs” from existence, and on Earth, humans can only see them in their disguises. Pulsipher’s alter-ego is played by Marisa Miller – you know, the insanely beautiful supermodel – while Walker’s disguise is none other than James Hong.
Yes, the simple shots of Hong and Miller walking around doing undead detective work are as hilarious as you can imagine, especially when they have their guns drawn – because they’re disguised too. When we see Marisa Miller, she’s holding a hair dryer, so the image isn’t completely out of the question, but whenever we see James Hong with his “gun” drawn, he’s holding a banana. Yes, the close up shot of James Hong holding a banana is pure, cartoonish, slapstick comedy gold – but the fact that these moments weren’t utilized more often seriously disappointed me. Unfortunately, wasted opportunities like this continually haunt R.I.P.D. and its utterly underwhelming production.
So how are the buddy-cop antics between Roy and Nick? Seriously, just think Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K and Will Smith’s Agent J. Same mentorship dynamic, same cocky professionalism, same “Step aside, Rookie” mentality – except Bridges has a little more fun with it. Jones’ delivery was dry and serious, because of the character, but Bridges is given more comedic freedom with Roy Pulsipher, a freedom he gleefully embraces.
While Ryan Reynolds plays a character we’ve seen over, and over, and over, and over – sorry, don’t have time to keep typing “overs” – again, Bridges absolutely carries R.I.P.D. on his rootin’ tootin’ back. His character’s Southern charm mentality mixing with modern times made for some hilarious exchanges between Roy and Nick, as his straight-shooting wisdom often drove Nick insane. Roy is lovable, quotable, and a shining success for the always charming Jeff Bridges, lessening the blows from R.I.P.D.‘s weaker moments.
But boy, were there some weaker moments. I’ll even completely ignore the fact that no road-map is necessary to navigate the horridly predictable screenplay, because that’s what summer blockbusters are all about – churn out something easy to follow and light it up with explosions and action. There was no reason to expect anything special story wise. But for a film that relies completely on visuals, the cranky dead monsters that we’re given are almost embarrassing at points, showcasing some unjustifiably poor CGI work and overly simple presentation. Forget about R.I.P.D. trying to stick to the whole comic book presentation – these “dead-ohs” felt Saturday-morning-cartoon bad – unpolished, unfinished, brainless, dull husks that offered no intrigue and could only spout generic lines like “OH YEAH!” or “OH NO!” Apparently when the dead turn into their grotesque forms, they lose all powers of communication, and just grunt like a bunch of boring cavemen. Sure, the destruction and such was pretty solid, but all the animations were horribly noticeable, taking me completely out of the moment during specific scenes.
With that said, R.I.P.D. is nothing but a time waster. Honestly, you could do worse. Much worse. But the problem is, you can also do better – much better. With so many other movies crowding theaters right now, there’s really no reason to rush out and catch Schwentke’s strange action comedy. Hell, there’s even a better action film being released this week in RED 2, making this comic book adaptation even less valuable. But if I’m ever laying in bed one night, flipping through the channels on my TV for some material to fall asleep to, I’d keep R.I.P.D. on. Not sure if that’s really a compliment, but you take what you can get.