Directed by Robert Schwentke. Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller. (2013, PG-13, 96 min.)
REVIEWED By Marjorie Baumgarten, Fri., July 26, 2013
Pronounced DOA during its opening weekend, R.I.P.D. was done in by its predictability and flat-footed delivery. Based on the Dark Horse series of graphic novels by Peter M. Lenkov, the film was adapted by the Clash of the Titans screenwriters, Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. You’ll be forgiven, however, for mistaking R.I.P.D. for the latest outing in the Men in Black film franchise (which is also based on a comic book series), so marked are the onscreen similarities in these supernatural buddy-cop movies.
Nick (Reynolds) and Roy (Bridges) are dead police partners in the Rest in Peace Department (R.I.P.D.) in present-day Boston, serving out their 100-year hitches as a chance to clear their names before the final Judgment Day. Their mission is to catch the dead who remain on Earth. Nick is the rookie, who has just been shot dead by his Beantown partner Hayes (Bacon) for reconsidering his part in pocketing some extraneous gold booty they found during a bust; Roy is a six-shooter relic from the Wild West. Bridges plays this loquacious lawman with a zest that easily overshadows everything else onscreen. At headquarters, the pair receive their marching orders from Proctor (Parker), who, with her bangs, Sixties-era white boots, and kicky attitude, seems to be channeling Barbara Feldon’s Agent 99 from the original Get Smart series.
The Deados, as their prey is called, have a soul stank that infects everything around them. They’re responsible for everything from global warming to broken elevators, and shape-shift into monstrous forms when cornered. The last third of the film is given over to CGI antics that turn Boston into an apocalyptic vortex. But it all looks kind of rubbery, and Schwentke doesn’t do a much better job handling more rudimentary visual fillips. The joke in which Nick and Roy have alternate identities on Earth (Nick’s avatar is an old Chinese man, Roy’s a voluptuous model) is squandered. This lost opportunity is indicative of the lax oversight given to the whole project. R.I.P.D. never creates a believable universe, interesting action sequences, nor dynamic characters. It’s a paint-by-numbers approach in which the film’s comedy and drama both fall flat.