Do you remember great buddy cop movies like 48 Hours, Lethal Weapon, Hot Fuzz, or maybe Dragnet? Perhaps some alien/other worldly action comedies that utilize a partner mentality like Men in Black and Ghostbusters. Well R.I.P.D. is not the movie for you, sadly, if the trailer and premise was anything you got excited for. In a summer where inevitable sequels, remakes, and established properties are going to rule the roost, R.I.P.D. is a bad mashup of so many other movies that its bloated corpse will float to the top of the list of bad movies this summer. Thankfully, the smell is masked by some (few) things about a movie that is based on so many other movies and an established comic book property.
Stop me if you’ve heard this plot before. Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is Boston Police Detective and a loving boyfriend to his girl Julia (Stephanie Szostak) who is seen early in the movie burying some gold under an orange tree and feeling a bit guilty about it. Nick meets up with his partner Detective Hayes (Kevin Bacon) and the two bros have some bro time and talk about the gold each of them have. Nick is like. “Bro I don’t feel right and I am turning it in” and Hayes is all, “I understand Bro, I will do the same.” Then there is a police raid and A-HA! Hayes corners Nick and says, “Can’t let you turn it in Bro.” Nick is shot and killed, proceeds to go up this wormhole to heaven…maybe hell, something along the waiting line for judgment and gets pulled into a white office where he is conscripted into God’s Army…I think…by a buttoned down, sultry looking police chief simply known as Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker).
Nick is asked to serve 100 years in the service of R.I.P.D. (Rest in Peace Department) before he himself is judged to go to heaven or hell. His job is to round up the so called “Dead-Os” (people who escaped judgment and are dead) with his new partner Rooster Cogbrun, I mean Roy (Jeff Bridges). During their time together they stumble upon some familiar looking gold and realize there is a plot to try and breach the pathway to heaven/hell to let the dead come back to earth.
All well and good, familiar in tone and plot points, but nothing about the movie feels fresh or even unique. You are treading ground that has already been stepped upon with movies like Men In Black and Ghostbusters, which R.I.P.D. tries to be like, but doesn’t have the same kinetic force to get over the stale plot line and bad effects in the movie. For a summer blockbuster based off of a comic book, you think the effects would be at least visually interesting, not visually uninteresting. The creature effects for the Dead-Os makes them look like massive blobs of amorphous flesh, just there moving along with the jiggling effects of water in a bag. There isn’t anything to catch the eye in this movie, just sub-par visuals that make the monsters from I Am Legend look better by comparison.
It’s amazing to see the similarities with R.I.P.D. and say Men In Black, which with a recent internet clip that showcases the trailers side by side, gives off a distinct feeling that the studio was looking for another franchise on their hands that will be familiar with audiences. Can’t blame them for trying, but this film seems like the lazy high school try instead of the old college try. The partnering of the two detectives, the world in which they work to keep hidden from society and even the whole stop the world from ending plotline is even the same, minus the means in which the world will end. Few action set pieces, a lot of banter and nothing else makes this worthwhile in terms of being a blockbuster.
What ends up being the most enjoyable reason to see this movie, if you have no other choices or need to escape the heat, is for the acting that Jeff Bridges brings to this movie. I fully believe Bridges will only take roles that allow him to act like The Dude or Rooster Cogburn or possibly both those characters at the same time. He seems to be the only one enjoying his time on screen spouting off some snappy dialogue and being the comic relief of the movie and Roy is certainly the old codger of the group but still has probably the best development as a character in the entire movie. Reynolds doesn’t seem into the role or movie for that matter, just kind of stands there by his lonesome, but does well enough when bouncing back and forth with Jeff Bridges. In reality, Bridges is what holds the movie together with Roy’s character as he even makes the bland role that Mary-Louise Parker has into something of smoldering, lust-filled tension.
There is a lot to be desired in this movie and given the source material of the comic book; I felt that there could have been a lot more interaction between the two leads. There was something missing from Reynolds that could have made the Nick/Roy dynamic funny and exciting instead of just Roy saddling and riding off with the whole movie. The characters overall are one dimensional incarnations of their two-dimensional counterparts and the movie runs along the old tried and true tropes of the buddy cop genre. The cast of the movie definitely has a really laid back approach to their characters though, which I guess lessens the blow of seeing this movie and offers up some chuckles from their limited interactions between one another (Bridges, Reynolds, Parker, Bacon).
It feels too lazy, even for Hollywood standards that this is being touted as a Summer Blockbuster. What could have been a fun ride is just an exercise when a formula that has been done to death (pun) needs something more than the hope that audiences will like it because it’s like other movies they have seen. The world of R.I.P.D. is given to the audience at face value, never really explaining the rules to it all, the action is overly effects heavy and doesn’t look sharp, the characters are a bit flat save for Roy, and it’s an inferior knock-off to other products out there. Once again Jeff Bridges does make some of the movie enjoyable, but then again Jeff Bridges is awesome and he clearly looked like he was having a fun time rehashing older roles he has done and cashing a sweet check. Even Kevin Bacon makes a lackluster villain role into something eerily fun since he can play slimy villains particularly well.
I didn’t leave the theater psyched about what I saw, just middling in terms of liking the laid back characters and Bridges, but in reality, the movie should be left to rest in peace. I am done with the puns now.
Rating: 1.5 Stetson hats out of 5
By Nick Guzman