From the very first trailer I saw for R.I.P.D., I knew it was going to be a mess. It echoes the style of late 90s action comedies like Men in Black. However, it’s not a positive echo or a clever homage, it’s like this movie was meant to be released 10-15 years ago. So going in, I was hesitant. Was I disappointed or was R.I.P.D. a surprise hit?
Ryan Reynolds stars as a Boston police officer who is backstabbed and killed by his partner (Kevin Bacon) during the first few minutes. He is then thrust into an afterworld police department called the Rest In Peace Department (or R.I.P.D.). He is offered the chance to win his redemption by fighting for good, or risk his chances with judgment (and he has a few dark secrets that he’s concerned about). So he’s paired up with a grizzly veteran played by Jeff Bridges and they then go on adventures to stop an impending apocalypse. Other notable names include Mary Louise-Parker, Mike O’Malley (Glee), and Robert Knepper (Heroes, Prison Break).
Reynolds holds the movie on his shoulders as essentially the only likeable character in the bunch, and he walks a fine line with that. However he plays exactly the same character he’s always played. It’s getting to be a pattern and I’d love to see Reynolds go back to some more character-centric pieces like Adventureland, Chaos Theory, and The Nines, which I all enjoyed.
Um… That’s about all I liked.
What doesn’t work?
Everything. This movie is just as much of a mess as I expected with the previews. I was trying to think about where it all fell apart. In the scriptwriting process, it might’ve looked good on paper. This script could have been done well. But in the director’s seat, Robert Schwentke struggled. His resume is varied, with things like Red (which is ironic that Red 2 opened during this weekend as well), The Time Traveler’s Wife, and Flightplan with Jodie Foster. But here… There were major missteps.
The first is Jeff Bridges. He’s a fine actor, I’ve seen him do incredible things. But here, he was outlandish in a way that didn’t work with the rest of the film for me. Yes, he was quirky and occasionally witty, but that should’ve been Reynolds’ job. He didn’t convey the same sense of gravitas that Tommy Lee Jones enveloped in Men in Black, which paired perfectly with Smith. Another reviewer said it perfectly, that there is zero chemistry between the two.
And half the time, I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
So Schwentke shot the movie and thought it was going to be great. And then it went to post-production, where all these monsters would come to life. How did he see this end product and decide “Yes, that looks great”? This CGI is atrocious. With the inevitable comparison to Men in Black, MIB actually had better CGI and that was 15 years ago. It was disturbing how bad it was. Now, some action set pieces were decent. But the character and monster design was downright unforgivable.
We have a movie with two leads who have zero chemistry together. We have visual effects that would be dated even if they came out 10 years ago. The story is predictable and unengaging and I wouldn’t urge you to watch this movie on basic cable, for free. Waste of your time.