Friday, July 19, 2013
Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is a Boston detective that's killed in the line of duty. In the afterlife, the head of the Rest In Peace Department, Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), gives him the choice to either face judgement or join the force. While not a dirty cop, Walker hadn't exactly been keeping his nose clean, so he takes the deal. Plus, he hopes this will allow him to contact his wife (Stephanie Szostak). Walker is paired with a veteran R.I.P.D. officer, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), to show him the ropes.
I appreciated the fact that they don't take a long time to get the story going. Everything mentioned previously takes place in the first 5-10 minutes. The problem is they rush through it so fast that they don't really establish their own mythology that well. The rules regarding the dead are just glossed over. There's a whole thing involving how the dead react to spicy food and Cumin that is used several times, but never really explained well. The dead have all kinds of effects on the outside world that aren't fully explored in any kind of fun way.
Even the powers the R.I.P.D. lawmen are just kind of waved off as they happen. The biggest gag regarding the lawmen is that they appear differently to the outside world. We find (and this is shown in the trailer) that Pulsipher is seen to outsiders as a hot blond (played by model Marisa Miller) and Walker is an old, Chinese man (James Hong). I'm kind of shocked to see this was Marisa Miller's first movie role. You'd think she would have been in a ton of films by now, even if she was just cast as eye candy. Anyway, I would have liked to see a little more of her (and I don't mean in the flesh) and James Hong together, just to play on how the outside world perceives them, and to have to gags where Miller and Hong are doing Bridges and Reynolds impressions. There's a lot they could have done with this, but they only use it to show people either staring at Marisa Miller or whistle at her.
The R.I.P.D. is comprised of the greatest lawmen in history. That they don't take advantage of this at all is one of the biggest wasted opportunities of the story. There's not a single reference to any historical lawmen. No Wyatt Earp, Eliot Ness,Wild Bill Hickok, etc. Hell, you could have tried to get Timothy Olyphant to reprise his role as Seth Bullock from Deadwood. Just a small cameo would have been great. Even if the makers of the film had said this is fantasy world, they could have had fun referencing fictional lawmen instead. Wouldn't it have been cute to hear references to detectives and cops from old TV shows and movies, like Dirty Harry or Joe Friday? The fact that there aren't even fictional references is all the more noticeable by the fact that Jeff Bridges is basically doing his Rooster Cogburn act from True Grit. Why didn't they just make his character be Rooster instead of "Roy Pulsipher".
As much as I love Jeff Bridges, I really wish he had gone a different direction with his performance. Again, I'm sure this is something the makers of the film thought would have a big appeal. We'll get Bridges and have him do Rooster again and people will eat it up. It didn't feel original, and then half the time you can't understand his dialog because it sounded like he's got a big wad of chewing tobacco in his mouth. Ryan Reynolds, on the other hand, didn't appear to even want to be there. That's likely because there's very little to his character. He doesn't have any good lines, and he doesn't get a chance to showcase any of his normal, fast-talking delivery. I didn't get any chemistry at all between the two. Kevin Bacon tries to have some fun with his character, but again, he's not given much to do either.
Most of the attempts at humor fall so flat that I wasn't even sure if that's what they were going for. It was frustrating to sit through this waiting for something to make me laugh, or anything interesting or clever to happen. Characters and relationships are so poorly developed that they just become a series of repeated lines. Pulsipher makes constant references to how he died, and there wasn't any point to it. His character oscillated from weirdly sensitive to gruff, and you could never get a handle on what he was about. There's also a strained relationship between him and Proctor that seems like they are setting it up for some kind of payoff, but it never does.
Director Robert Schwentke seemed to have difficulty finding a tone for the film. It's never silly enough to be campy, but it's still difficult to take seriously. I'm sure it didn't help that the script was brought to you by the writers of other smash hits such as Aeon Flux and the Clash of the Titans remake (Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi). This was based on a comic book by Peter M. Lenkov, which I haven't read, so I'm really curious as to what the tone of the source material was.
It's interesting to note that they had originally cast Zach Galifianakis in the role, but he pulled out due to scheduling conflicts. I think that would have been an interesting way to go, but it's a shame that we'll never see what could have been. At least with Galifianakis in the role, it would have been a given that it was going to be a comedy.
The special effects weren't very good. Most of the dead characters looked rubbery or computer game looking. It actually looked like a film made 5-10 years ago. Due to available showtimes, I got stuck seeing this in 3D, and it was totally useless 3D so you can skip that. The action itself was pretty uninteresting as well. It's just a series of ho-hum chases and shootouts.
R.I.P.D. is an interesting enough premise and could have been a fun film, but it ends up being a total bore. There's no charm, wit or anything memorable about it. It's a totally unremarkable and forgettable film. I'm really surprised this came out in mid-July is this is something better suited for a late August or early September release. If you have to watch it, save it for cable or cheap rental.
1.5 (out of 5) Death Stars