“Recycled, Men In Black rip-off.”
GRADE: D (2/5)
by Richard Rey
If the target audience of R.I.P.D. is third graders – then job well done. For those of us nine and up, this poorly made cartoony Men In Black rip-off is going to irritate more than entertain; the entire erroneous endeavor feels like a live-action Looney Tunes episode gone wrong – one where we want the anvil to drop on our own heads since a trip to the ER would provide more laughs and a much better story than this unoriginal piece of cliché that the studios thoughtlessly cranked out and then fought so hard to bury. Well, the word is out: not only is your daughter ugly, she’s boring and not funny. I should know – I took her out late last night and endured the 90 minutes of punishment.
The story kicks off when Boston Police Officer Nick (Ryan Reynolds) is murdered by his partner, Hayes (Kevin Bacon), for having a change of heart about some stolen gold the two Beantown coppers should’ve impounded as evidence during their last drug bust. Time stops, or slows to a near halt, allowing for Nick to walk around and observe his own death and the devastation surrounding him – this being the one and only time the ridiculously pitter-patter pace of the movie gives us time to breathe and drink in the eye candy before us: a barrage of bullets, smoke and debris suspended in mid-air. And then a dark vortex sucks our confused protagonist into the depths of an office in Michael Jordan Space Jam like fashion (the only thing missing are the Warner Bros. “seeing stars” drawn in by the hands of Harman and Ising.) He’s confronted by a refreshingly sarcastic Mary Louise-Parker as the bossy superior who is quick to inform him of his death and the only option for avoiding eternal damnation – joining the Rest In Peace Department. (Apparently Fresca is the beverage of choice in the terrestrial mid-tier Hereafter – I’m sure Sprite is on tap at the pearly gates while 7up product placement decorates the walls and caverns of Hell.)
But the R.I.P.D. isn’t for everyone, no, in fact it’s a Purgatory whose posthumous recruitment system allows only for specially-trained crooked cops like Nick to serve out hundred year terms to redeem their flawed lifestyles had on Earth. Their job? To hunt down and incarcerate Dead-O’s, evil undead souls that manage to outwit Heaven’s judicial system and hide out on Earth in human form to avoid eternal damnation. Their modus operandi? Describing Indian cuisine from a handful of cards and a whole lot of curry to coax the creatures out of their human bodies to reveal their grotesquely disgusting features, all of which look shoddy and far too much like Celebrity Deathmatch claymation for a 3-D summer release in the year 2013.
Nick (the rookie undead cop) is paired with a 19th century veteran lawmen Roycephus “Roy” Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges) who all at once dismisses the former’s prior police work on Earth and belittles the already-defeated Reynolds at every turn. This type of chemistry destroys meth labs – this is no Will Smith/Tommy Lee combination nor is it the Lethal Weapon Mel Gibson/Danny Glover matchup the studio thought it might… maybe… possibly be. Instead we are left with a repellent duo who don’t get along, the younger of which has a look of confusion and repulse on his face throughout the entire idiotically manic space-gun misfire. Bridges’ marble-mouthed cowboy gunslinger isn’t all bad with his True Grit take on Roycephus (at least he looks like he’s having some fun). But with a script this unoriginal and whose best running joke involves the human avatars of both men – one an old Asian man (James Hong) and the other a leggy supermodel (Victoria’s Secret model Marisa Miller) – having daily run ins with earthlings who gawk at the latter, you can’t exactly expect the Oscar-winning actor to save the day.
What you can expect is to expect the expected. If this isn’t the biggest Men In Black rip-off ever, I don’t know what is. Turns out the stolen gold is linked to the Staff of Jericho that will re-open that black vortex from before and send the undead to reign upon the Earth forever and ever. Yes, yet another doomsday apocalyptic ending to save the world.
Trouble with all of this is, if Nick already had a huge change of heart and wanted to do the right thing – why end up in the R.I.P.D. to begin with? Ah, who cares? That seems to be the underlying attitude of the entire film – a half-assed bloated budget monstrosity whose undead creatures seem to poignantly reflect the filmmaker’s own slapdash efforts. With little more than terrible CGI marked by an underdeveloped storyline and stock characters to offer, we are left with an unsatisfying feeling of indifference. Incredibly, the movie can’t even manage to elicit the faintest emotional response from us since like the crew and actors involved, we frankly don’t give a damn; the opposite of love is indifference and the spring of apathy upon which this movie was conceived spills over and floods the silver screen for the duration of its 96 minute runtime. You didn’t care, so why should we? It is green, though, in the sense that it’s very eco-friendly, much like The Conjuring – recycled garbage seems to be this weekend’s box office trend.
The result of all of this cliché and mediocrity is a movie which probably never should have been a movie at all – in my notes I recall suggesting to the studio that they send flops like this straight to videogame rather than DVD or Blu-ray. Is it fun? Not really. Is it decent popcorn entertainment? Not so much. Is it worth a watch? Perhaps on cable or RedBox. Is there anything attractive about it? Not much besides Marisa Miller’s cleavage. Have I seen worse this year? Absolutely. Movie 43, The Host, and Broken City to name a few. Overall, R.I.P.D. is a barren effort that may very well bury the careers of some of the parties involved and isn’t worth your weekend or your ten year old’s allowance.
THE UPSIDE: It doesn’t ever take itself too seriously.
THE DOWNSIDE: It’s halfhearted filmmaking by director Robert Schwentke (RED, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and storyline are proof that this is just another unoriginal Hollywood mega-flop masquerading as something it’s not – Men In Black.
MPAA: Rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references
Runtime: 96 min
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime, Sci-Fi
Director: Robert Schwentke
Writers: Matt Manfredi, Phil Hay
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon
Theatrical Release Date: July 19th, 2013
Distributor: Universal Pictures