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Deado on arrival: “R.I.P.D”

September 17, 2013

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Poor Ryan Reynolds. He’s a capable enough actor with solid comedic chops and a ‘40s matinee-idol face and hair. He’s already famous, yet can’t seem to catch a break when it comes to movies. And with RIPD, he, um, he still hasn’t caught one. As a matter of fact, he’s managed to find himself in the center of a gigantic suck to rival that of Green Lantern. I’m beginning to think that Ryan Reynolds is to massive flops what trailer parks are to tornadoes—they don’t cause them, but they sure as hell manage to be in the same proximity of them an awful lot.

So, RIPD…well, have you seen Men in Black? Okay, then you’ve seen this movie. Done? No? I gotta go into more detail? Damn it…okay, well, Reynolds plays a Boston cop named Nick Walker, who is basically a very good dude with a cute starter house and an a cute starter wife named Julia (Stephanie Szostak). Ah, but Nick is hiding a secret: he and his partner, Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) stole some gold statutes from a drug dealer. As drug dealers are prone to have. But, hey, don’t worry. This movie isn’t gonna try and make Reynolds play an anti-hero—heh, let’s not push this guy too far out of his comfort zone. He decides he’s going to book the gold into evidence. Bobby seems totally cool with this, so naturally, first chance he gets, Bobby kills Nick and makes it look like he was killed in a drug bust gone bad. Because, duh.

bacon

“Don’t worry. I’m totally not a bad guy. Just wear something bright-colored today, okay?”

Nick ascends, but doesn’t end up in any kind of heaven we’d expect for Ryan Reynolds (I imagine it involves a lot of styling product and exfoliates), but instead finds himself in a supernatural police precinct, reporting to a dryer-than-burnt-toast police supervisor named Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker, who is probably the best thing about this movie). Seems some cops who aren’t good enough to  make it heaven but still not bad enough to go to hell are impressed into service in the Rest in Peace Department. Their job is to hunt down undead spirits who refuse to leave earth. RIPD call these monsters Deados (I should warn you, creativity is not this movie’s strong suit).

Hm...huge, weird police station...nope nothing derivative about that."

Hm…huge, weird police station…nope nothing derivative about that.

As a rookie cop, Nick is partnered with an old pro, an ornery cowboy named Roy Pulsipher (a very funny Jeff Bridges). Roy doesn’t cotton to his newbie podna, but shows him the ropes anyway. In Earth, you see, they appear as avatars. Roy’s is a supermodel, and Nick’s is James Hong. Because James Hong is always funny, even when he’s being menaced by Roy Batty.

Well, the origin story can only take up so much time, so Roy and Nick handily find themselves unearthing a major plot to open the gates of the afterlife to the dead. And wouldn’t you know it, this just so happens to intersect with Nick’s murder. Much wackiness ensues.

Mismatched partners wielding strange, metallic guns...uh, not ringing a bell...

Mismatched partners wielding strange, metallic guns…uh, not ringing a bell…

So, yeah, RIPD is basically the same movie as Men in Black, and yes, I know it was based on a comic book, but that doesn’t change the fact that director Robert Schwentke seems to have tried to be as derivative as possible. The premise, creatures, action setpieces, and production design all look aas of they were lifted straight from a direct-to-DVD MiB sequel that couldn’t lure back Tommy Lee Jones or Will Smith.

But the almost staggering lack of creativity doesn’t end there. Neither Schwentke, nor seemingly any of the six (Jesus, six?!?) screenwriters seem to know how to make the movie clever. The avatar joke is spent the moment it’s introduced. The RIPD is populated by cops from throughout history, but they barely register. The movie could have had a blast serving up fedora-wearing James Ellroy types alongside snappily-dressed Serpico refugees and maybe Crockett and Tubbs stand-ins, but, uh, nope. Likewise Roy and Nick’s clichéd “mismatched cops learn to work together” arc is played totally straight. This movie could have taken decades of cop-movie clichés and given them a supernatural spin, but, again, that just seems like too much work. Hell, Roy and Nick crack the case while they’re on suspension—like any good cops from an ‘80s action movie—but RIPD is too lazy to be self-aware.

"What? I wanted to buy a Tesla. They're good for the environment."

“What? I took the job because I wanted to buy a Tesla. They’re good for the environment.”

The headliners all do their best. Bridges is funny, but clearly phoning in a variation on his incarnation of Rooster Cogburn. Parker is drolly funny, but it’s a one-note character and performance. And poor Reynolds works himself into a lather trying to make this movie take flight, but he’s stuck once again in a boat-anchor of a movie.

On top of that, for a movie that cost 130 million the effects are pretty sub-par. I mean, doesn’t that kind of coin at least buy you some convincing CGI?

"Oh shit. I just learned Bridges only took the role to buy a Tesla. I am so boned..."

“Oh shit. I just learned Bridges only took the role to buy a Tesla. I am so boned…”

You can’t fault Reynolds for taking these trainwrecks. Comic book movies are practically a license to print money, yet somehow he manages to choose the ones that doom themselves to ignominious oblivion.

Anyway, that’s RIPD. Apparently, Hollywood thinks we’ll just watch any old crap. Thankfully, audiences proved them very, very wrong. Not me, personally, but, like, everyone else. So that’s good.

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