Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds in R.I.P.D..
One of the reasons I was excited to see R.I.P.D. was that here was a big budget Summer movie that wasn't a remake or a sequel. While I watched it however, I couldn't help but feel as though a remake was exactly what I was watching as there are so many parallels between this story and Men in Black. That doesn't mean I didn't enjoy parts of it or that it isn't better than the many negative reviews floating around about it, but it does feel a little like a R.I.P. off.
Tell me if this plot doesn't sound familiar. A young police officer is recruited into a shadow agency that protects an unwitting public from unseen forces that are living amongst us. He is partnered with a crusty, older agent with whom he shares a rocky relationship. And together they will save the world from destruction by the time the credits roll. Their adventure will be filled with CGI action and often played for laughs. It's true that here, Officer Nick (Reynolds) is recruited into the R.I.P.D. and not the M.I.B. and that he's chasing down dead guys and not aliens, but you can't help but compare the two films. A quick search of the internet shows that I'm hardly the first person to make this comparison.
Reynolds's Nick is a Boston police officer who is killed by his partner, Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Following his death, Nick's spirit is recruited into the Rest in Peace Department of Heaven where he joins histories' greatest lawmen in tracking down dead people who refuse to leave the earth when their time is up. He is partnered with Roy, a Wild Bill Hickok figure played by Jeff Bridges. When the two return to earth to collect the errant spirits they don't appear as themselves to mortals. Nick looks like an old Chinese man while Roy takes on the appearance of a supermodel. Some of the film's funniest moments are provided by this body swap.
The absolute best thing the movie has going for it is Jeff Bridges. He steals all of his scenes as Roy. He mumbles his lines in a western drawl, spouting cliches but giving them new life with his eccentric performance. He almost single-handedly saves the movie, but there's only so much one man can do on his own. He shares a nice chemistry with Mary-Louise Parker, who plays his boss. They have several nice moments together and he makes a stronger connection with her than he does with the pretty, but bland Reynolds.
Although I enjoyed portions of the film, as a whole it just never quite gels. The action looks good, but the members of the R.I.P.D. are basically indestructible and so they're never really in danger and thus there's little tension. The few moments of drama also fall flat. Nick and his wife must deal with his death but this is no Ghost and neither Reynolds nor the script are up to the task. It's definitely the lighter moments that work best.
Sadly, the failure of this film will only frighten Hollywood away further from trying new films and starting new franchises that aren't based on wildly popular young adult novels. There's an interesting premise here. It's just poorly executed.
Ryan Reynolds, Mary-Louise Parker and Jeff Bridges in R.I.P.D.
As Scott wrote, R.I.P.D. is clearly a variation on Men in Black. You could also draw comparisons to many other much better films. Roy and Nick either capture or kill spirits with cool looking guns, just like the boys in Ghostbusters (1984). Nick trying to save his wife from a back stabbing co-worker, who is responsible for his death, is similar to the plot in Ghost (1990). There are also countless “buddy cop” movies where two opposites save the day while not getting along all of the time. Check out Bon Cop, Bad Cop (2006) for a great example.
R.I.P.D. did not domestically make back even half of its $130,000,000 budget. The special effects took up the bulk of the film's cost. They are sometimes impressive and often cartoonish but other than Avatar (2009), no film has sold itself exclusively on visual effects. Also, remember that Ghostbusters and Ghost have very dated, unimpressive special effects and Bon Cop, Good Cop has hardly any at all, and all three were huge domestic box office hits.
With the leads being invulnerable, the animation filled action scenes are about as tense as Elmer Fudd hunting wabbits. Scott mentioned that the lighter moments work best and I agree. The best moments are the banter between Bridges, Reynolds and Parker. When Roy tells Nick his last name, Nick says it, “Sounds like an STD.” I enjoyed the story of Roy’s death, which he continuously elaborates on. Later in the movie, a surprised Nick notes that Roy agrees with him. Roy explains, “It feels strange, kind of tingly.” As someone who has long known that “manmade” global warming is little more than a political power grab, I laughed out loud when Proctor explains that global warming is caused by the evil spirits that roam Earth.
With its brisk pace and likable enough characters, R.I.P.D. has some entertainment to offer but not nearly enough to make it worth viewing a second time.
Photos © Copyright Universal Pictures (2013)