Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges & Mary Louis Parker
Let’s cut to the chase, R.I.P.D is a neutered, unfunny, unfocused mess. Whatever it may have had at the start has been driven out by a thousand rewrites and punch-up sessions, edits and re-edits. It feels like that dreaded movie only big studios can make. The botch up by Committee, too many voices, too many opinions, not enough talent and ending up with nothing but sludge.
The story (chuckle) sees recently deceased cop Nick (Reynolds) hired by a post mortal coil Police department named the Rest In Peace Department, an organization responsible for containing the ‘Deados’, bad souls loose on earth, and preventing them from doing anything to mess up the equilibrium of normal life.Nick is paired with Roy (Bridges), who is old and doesn’t understand new things and is old, and together they crack wise whilst killing bad guys. Sorry, ‘Deados’. Jesus…
On paper I think Men In Black is a good Blockbuster to rip-off. It has a simple set-up, essentially a buddy cup movie, but with a Sci-Fi twist. What makes it great to rip-off is that the Sci-Fi twist can become a fantasy twist, a vampire twist or whatever the hell you want it to be twist and boom you’ve got an easily digestible popcorn movie. R.I.P.D copies and pastes from MIB as often and as loudly as possible, from the ‘Hey look it is a normal workplace except aliens/demons are walking around’ joke, to the veteran character actor and hipper young star pairing of Tommy Lee Jones/Jeff Bridges and Will Smith/Ryan Reynolds, almost as if board room members were checking off from a list.
But of the multitude of things R.I.P.D does wrong, the most pressing is what it does with Jeff Bridges. For me the number one reason why Men In Black is a great Blockbuster movie is because Tommy Lee Jones’ character isn’t a punchline. He’s hyper-competent, Intelligent, funny, adaptable and if anything Will Smith is the clueless one, out of his depth. The movie may have made money on account of Smith, but as a film it belongs to Jones, and it is one of his strongest performances in a glittering career. Here Bridges, who could be excellent in a film like this, is just a clown. An out of touch, out of date Old West lawman lost in time, mostly being a buffoon and being purposefully annoying. I mean if you’re going to steal, steal properly for God’s sake.
Elsewhere things don’t go much better, Reynolds seems to have lost his youthful enthusiasm and charm and is becoming a rather bland actor to watch these days, particularly in straight man roles. He may as well be 90’s Ben Affleck here, barely making an impression in his own star vehicle. Mary Louise Parker gives what was probably my favourite performance as the R.I.P.D boss woman, but even she is wasted, and you get the sense a lot of her material was cut out. Kevin Bacon does his best as the villain of the piece, but it’s a boring role in a boring plot in a boring movie. The movie’s storyline is criminally bland when you consider the scope they had to work with here, and gets very little out if its supernatural world in terms of value.
The one joke that sort of works, already unfunny because it’s so heavily relied upon in the trailers, the whole ‘Jeff Bridges looks like Marisa Miller and people think he’s a hot chick!’ joke. Bridges is hopelessly abused and at best could have worked as a onetime sight gag. So naturally this movie uses it like, ten or eleven times. Ultimately this felt like being forced to watch someone’s terrible, unrehearsed stand up comedy routine, only for him to turn him into a cheaply rendered, unimaginative CGI Demon and that somehow be something you don’t care about. The movie isn’t funny, it isn’t exciting, the plot isn’t engaging and the action isn’t gripping. The actors are wasted and the whole thing is just a gross misconception of a film that could have been fine in other, less blatantly corporate hands. Save yourself.