R.I.P.D. Movie Review
It’s not as bad as everyone says it is.
Put that on a poster or a DVD cover and use my name in perpetuity, for that may be the nicest thing that anyone is saying about R.I.P.D., which has a Rotten Tomato rating of just 12%.
Adapted from Peter Lenkov’s Dark Horse comic book, Universal’s supernatural comedy cost about $130 million dollars to make. Expected box office this weekend? Reportedly, somewhere between $9 and $12 million dollars.
So, yeah, it’s likely going to be a dud, a colossal failure, and a box office bomb.
But with the exception of those who were either a part of the film or a part of the apparatus that financed it, who cares?
If you’re sitting at home this weekend and you want to see a dumb popcorn film that will make you smirk a few times, don’t be scared off by the bad buzz, R.I.P.D. really isn’t terrible… and there’s another one for the poster.
Directed by Robert Schwentke (Red), R.I.P.D. stars Ryan Reynolds as Boston cop who is trying to do right by his adorable French wife (Stephanie Szostak).
What does “do right by” mean? In this instance, it means hiding a pile of gold under a freshly planted orange tree — gold that was stolen from a bust by Reynolds’ character Nick and his partner Hayes (played by Kevin Bacon, who is in full weasel mode).
In that Nick is our hero, though, he promptly decides that he is going to turn in his half of the gold because his wife tells him that she is happy with their life (yes, it’s just that easy). This prompts a severe response from Hayes (equal amount of easy).
All of a sudden, Nick is sitting across from Mary Louise Parker, aka Proctor, a paper pusher in the afterlife who offers Nick a term of 100 years in the Rest in Peace Department in an effort to repent for his sins prior to judgement.
What is the Rest in Peace Department? I’m glad that I am a lazy enough writer to make it seem like you asked; the R.I.P.D. exists as a supernatural police force, assembling top shelf dead lawmen to police the living world in an effort to catch dead-os, which is a term used to describe dead people who have refused to move on.
Joining Nick on his beat is Roy (Jeff Bridges), a former Marshall from the 1800s who was also betrayed by his partner.
Together, Roy and Nick slowly adapt to working together as Nick works through his grief, which eventually helps the two stumble upon a dead-o conspiracy to bring the dead back to the living world.
All in all, the story is a little too paint by numbers. Nick seems like a mostly good cop, but he changes course too easily and his wife, played by Stephanie Szostak, doesn’t get the chance to do much, which is odd, considering the fact that she is the object of Nick’s post life obsession.
“Because she’s my wife” and “Because it’s the right thing to do” are shortcuts used by the script to justify character behavior, robbing us of a chance to see why Nick loves his wife so fully (beyond her being his wife) and why he cares about saving the world.
I didn’t go into this expecting much backstory, but it would have been nice — that isn’t what this is, though. What it is, is a CGI-laden romp that asks Reynolds to be quippy and Bridges to be an amalgamation of Yosemite Sam and Rooster Cogburn, and they don’t disappoint on that front.
Could they have dialed back on the Reynolds’ smarm during the film’s climax? Perhaps, and Bridges could have dialed back his mad-Marshall routine a bit, but mostly, the duo seems well matched, and this isn’t something you can always say about a “buddy” film. Their chemistry and small bits of charmingly absurd quirk like Proctor “Billy Goating” Roy, the revelation about Roy’s skull getting lovingly “handled” by a coyote are really the best part of this. Some of that is Reynolds, but I’m putting a lot of that credit onto Bridges, because you can tell he is having fun while dancing in this absurd skin.
Speaking of absurd skin, the CGI is a mixed bag. On one hand, the environmental CGI is really good. When the dead-os tear through Boston and their plan starts to pay off, you can see where all that money went. The same thing can be said about the tunnel leading to the after-life. It’s not “Oh my God” breathtaking, but it’s clears the bar. Unfortunately, the same can not be said about the CG character designs, which are garbage. They are just horrible, and kiddish, and the absolute worst part of this film, and that shortcoming is on full display in the first 60 seconds of the film and all throughout.
This is one instance where practical effects would have been a vast improvement over CGI. Sure, it would have limited the scope of the thing a little, but what they would have traded away in spectacle would have been nothing compared to the gains that they would have gotten in quality and critical… well, not praise, but maybe a bit less bile.
As for the critical bile, the Men in Black comparisons are haunting this thing, and that is justifiable (even though, there are clear Ghostbusters and Beetlejuice inspirations that are separately as prominent, but not collectively).
The filmmakers could have worked harder to stifle those criticisms. Make Nick’s living life less of an after-thought, make the villains less predictable and one note.
Why do they want to take over the living world? It has to be something more than, “Because they are bad guys” if you want to be something more than fluff, but the filmmakers clearly didn’t because they were chasing the MIB movie dollar.
The difference is, that Men in Black didn’t have to be more because it was novel when it came out 16 years ago, but that is a lot of years and a lot of copies later.
Ultimately, R.I.P.D. is cursed by time and the wasted decade and a half it spent languishing in development.
If this was 2003, this would have been huge, but in 2013, it’s quite clear that it won’t be, and while I don’t think this deserves to be a blockbuster, it has enough charm to make me wish that people would give it a chance, if not at the the theater, then maybe when it’s on DVD or TV.