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Review: R.I.P.D. (2013)

R.I.P.D. (2013)

Directed by: Robert Schwentke

Premise: A slain police officer (Ryan Reynolds) enters the afterlife and is assigned to a supernatural police force that catches malevolent spirits.

What Works: The lead actors of R.I.P.D. attempt to save the movie. Ryan Reynolds is a competent actor and a watchable leading man and he does what he can with this material, injecting emotion and humor into a largely emotionless and humorless script. Also contributing what he can is Jeff Bridges as the mentor and partner to Reynold’s character. Bridges plays a lawman of the old west who has been with the R.I.P.D. for over a century and he plays the role as a comical version of his performance as Rooster Cogburn in the 2010 version of True Grit.

What Doesn’t: R.I.P.D. is a blatant rip-off of the Men in Black series. The concept is the same, with the dead taking the place of extraterrestrials, as is the relationship between the two main characters. Kevin Bacon is cast as essentially the same character played by Vincent D’Onofrio in the first Men in Black film and Mary-Louise Parker’s character is the same role played by Emma Thompson in Men in Black III. R.I.P.D. and the original Men in Black could be run side by side and they would play out nearly identically with the same plot beats unfolding at nearly the same pace. Even the set design mimics Men in Black, with the R.I.P.D. headquarters looking just like the Men in Black office and some of the dialogue exchanges between Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridge’s characters are virtually the same as those between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, although Smith’s swagger is sorely missing. One of the few elements of R.I.P.D. that isn’t ripped off Men in Black is the climax, which is instead plagiarized from The Avengers (although the finale of the 2012 film was a retread of similar scenes in Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon, TRON: Legacy, Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer, and Star Trek: Generations.) And that is one of the most disappointing aspects of R.I.P.D.; it is a great concept executed with no imagination. This is a special effects picture about the supernatural and that ought to allow for some creative environments and creatures but this movie looks like every other Hollywood sci-fi tent pole release. If the moviemakers needed to seek outside inspiration, they could have at least considered better movies. R.I.P.D. would benefit from the creativity of Beetlejuice or the politics and theology of Dogma but instead it is so bland as to be aggravating. The movie combines recycled visuals with a paint-by-numbers script and the filmmakers fail to properly execute basic storytelling tropes. The rookie never confronts his own inexperience nor does his relationship with his mentor ever mature into a meaningful bond. R.I.P.D. is dramatically inert and when the film arrives at the climax nothing is at stake. That is the key difference between R.I.P.D. and Men in Black; this film has neither the humor nor the thrills. The action sequences don’t come frequently enough, they aren’t very exciting, and the jokes are lame. The first Men in Black film, while not great, was an efficient and entertaining story that introduced an interesting world and gradually elevated the peril so that the finale put the hero in a position to be heroic. In R.I.P.D. there is a lot of shooting and property damage but none of it means anything and the heroes never go out on a limb to save themselves, each other, or the world.

Bottom Line: R.I.P.D. is a flavorless slog. Despite running only ninety-six minutes it takes forever to get nowhere.

Episode: #449 (July 28, 2013)