There are things to admire about R.I.P.D. There’s also a plethora of D.O.A. sequences. And then there’s Jeff Bridges…mumbling through half of this 96 minute rip-off of what can best be described as Men In Black meets Beetlejuice.
Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is a Boston police officer that lives to please his lovely wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak). He wants nothing but the best for her; something he conveys to his partner/friend Hayes (Kevin Bacon). After a lauded drug bust the two made, Hayes and Nick decide to keep some random chunks of gold they stumbled upon. Naturally, Nick becomes conflicted and tells Hayes that he’s not going to partake in such behavior anymore but is completely fine if Hayes elects to keep his share. From there, the duo immediately jumps into another high-profile case, but this time, Hayes is the only one to walkway and receives the glory.
Waking up moments after the grand typical abandon warehouse shootout on the case mentioned above is Nick, who finds himself in a wall-to-wall white interrogation room with a down-to-business woman named Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). She gives the shell-shocked guy the blunt reality of his present situation and tells him that he’s now enlisted in the Rest In Peace Department. He then gets partnered up with the rebellious loaner, Roy (Jeff Bridges doing his charismatic cowboy thing). Roy instructs Nick that they’re only goal in this stage of (after)life is making sure the lawless Deados (criminal rotting souls that hideout in human form) are contained and not roaming the earth.
The setup of the comic book adaptation is similar to MIB, but once the story predictably connects the plotlines of Nick’s death and the current case the grumbling afterlife cops are working on, interest has surprisingly been generated as to where it’s possibly headed. Some of that interest is garnered due to the charismatic physical delivery, which is to say the directing and cinematography, for they are the weapons that tweak a recycled cinematic concept. The other aspect that can act as a mild delight is that the Reynolds, Bridges, and Parker want to be in this flick. And despite the bickering their characters do, the engaged actors have a decent onscreen chemistry. The problem that arises though is the written dialogue is incredibly uneven, and therefore, hanging the threesome out to dry.
Just over the halfway mark is where this begins to shoot dreadful blanks. Sure it’s a fantastical setting, but the script only sporadically chooses when to enact that semi-crafty intelligence that went on display in the opening stages (both mechanically and creatively). For instance, there’s a bevy of humor potential revolving around how Nick and Roy appear to the living humans (former is an old Chinese man played by James Hong; the latter is a knockout blonde played by Marisa Miller). While you understand director Robert Schwentke (RED) not wanting to beat a dead-horse with that running gag, his choosing of when to rock it was suspect. The same can be said for the entire second half, as it feels as if they’re making it up as they go along, and completely forgot about what captured the audiences’ intrigue. Plus, the fun factor is lost. The CGI Deados are far too underdeveloped to pull you back in during the climatic showdown in the streets of downtown Boston.
In the end, R.I.P.D. had a thought, albeit a familiar one, but just couldn’t maintain a lively and coherent atmosphere the entire way through, despite the game cast.