Based on a Dark Horse Comic series or shameless rip off of Men In Black, however you want to slice it, R.I.P.D is here and has arrived on quite possibly the most jam-packed weekend for film in a long time in the States (it doesn’t open in the UK until September 20th). Tracking reports for ticket sales are spelling bomb of the summer which is both fair and unfortunate in ways. R.I.P.D is nowhere near a quality piece of cinema, but it is occasionally dumb fun and entertaining with potential that will probably never get realized now.
Ryan Reynolds plays Nick, a mostly honorable member of the Boston Police Department who comes into some gold after a case. He and his partner Hayes (Kevin Bacon) split the profit and continue along. Nick plants a tree for his girlfriend which he subsequently and secretly uses as a hiding spot for the gold. Nick’s guilty conscious catches up with him though and he vows to return the gold as evidence after this next raid amongst criminals.
Unfortunately, he bites the bullet but more intriguingly, time freezes on a hail of explosions, a shootout, and a warehouse engulfed in flames. After walking outside he is floated upwards seemingly to the heavens through a vicious looking tornado. It isn’t heaven though but rather an intermediate plane existing between heaven and hell dubbed the Rest In Peace Department.
Proctor (Mary Louise Parker) explains that “Deados” roam Earth disguised as humans and that it is the sole responsibility of the R.I.P.D to capture them and ship them off to Hell where they rightfully belong. Roy, a gruff cowboy-esqe Deado hunting professional from the 1800’s is paired with Nick to show him the ropes. Starting off fast definitely suits the absurdity of everything but too many times does the film attempt to take itself seriously.
It’s understandable that Nick would want to attend his funeral and at least chance contacting his girlfriend but it comes off idiotically sappy considering this is a movie about exposing comically grotesque looking dead people hiding from fate. R.I.P.D agents have avatars on Earth meaning they are not themselves in terms of appearance on the surface. For instance, Roy is seen a bimbo blonde woman while Nick gets the honor of taking on the form of an elderly Chinese man. With this in mind, moments similar to the aforementioned funeral seen where Nick approaches his girlfriend in the skin of a wrinkly old man theoretically could have had a comical twist to them but instead are played straight resulting in very stupid scenes. There’s also a really stupid and predictable subplot involving Nick’s girlfriend and Hayes. Speaking of predictability, the entire film is painstakingly formulaic.
As Nick learns the tools of the trade killing/capturing Deados with oversized revolvers that can disintegrate them with headshots he comes across some gold similar to what he found before the movie began. This prompts Nick to theorize that the gold and Deados are connected in some way. Once again, the results are obvious to most likely anyone.
If R.I.P.D shines anywhere it is certainly with the camaraderie and comedic chemistry between Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges. Roy runs his mouth nonstop about the department and his lengthy experience often criticizing Nick in good fun. The dialogue in scenes regarding Roy’s original death and extended death are witty and humorous. There are admittedly some clever aspects to Deado hunting including the point of transfer between R.I.P.D and Earth; a bathroom in a VCR repair shop. There are also some intriguingly weird and random methods to spotting Deados that involves spicy food. Occasionally, the avatars are humorously put to good use although sadly the biggest laugh comes from the trailer that was shipped with like every other release this year.
Outside of a ridiculous plot there are some action sequences including a very large finale but the special effects and CGI for Deados is so amateurishly poor and fake it is almost embarrassing that this isn’t a direct to DVD film. Furthermore some Deados fart uncontrollably while other larger ones run around with an exposed belly and plumbers crack. It’s insultingly lowbrow and juvenile, but more importantly a lazy attempt at humor. The story only continues to get ridiculous but despite shoddy effects the finale extended action sequence for survival is entertaining.
Robert Schwentke is somewhat of a chameleon directors with thrillers such as Flightplan and the sappy romantic drama The Time Traveler’s Wife on his CV. If there was one previous project that spelled success for R.I.P.D though it was Red, an action comedy that came out of nowhere with a fun premise and outrageously awesome cast. With an equally fun sequel on the horizon, I’m pretty sure right now he is regretting turning down Red 2 to direct this one…
Verdict: R.I.P.D is definitely stupid but has some enjoyable elements. Watching Jeff Bridges freak out over losing his prized cowboy hat and being a general smartass to everyone around him works. R.I.P.D forgets to be fun for 66% of its relatively short running time and in the end that’s the downfall. Instead it’s a predictable and cliché filled soap opera mess played straight with an afterlife gimmick and Deados. With a more focused direction of what something so asinine should be R.I.P.D has potential. The characters, action, and actors are all there, it just needs to embrace its absurdity and have better CGI.
R.I.P.D is in US theaters July 19th in both 2D and 3D but doesn’t come to the UK until September.
We are currently seeking Film contributors on WhatCulture. To find out more about the perks of being a Film contributor, click here.