Men in Black was released in 1997. R.I.P.D. was released in 2013. There is absolutely no reason that the latter, which is essentially a retread of the former, should look worse. I’m not saying that special effects make or break a film, but I’m also not saying that they don’t help. That’s especially true in an action movie that is in part driven by its odd-looking, mostly CGI, creatures. Even in 2013, Men in Black looks great. That’s because a great deal of time, effort, and heart was put into it. I’m not sure what went into R.I.P.D. but if any of those things were, they don’t come through in the final product.
The film’s lead is Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds), a detective working for the Boston Police. His partner is Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), who instantly looks like he will wind up as the villain. The surprise of all surprises occurs when Bobby shoots and kills Nick, all over a piece of gold — our MacGuffin. Nick finds himself in an office after death and is told that he can join the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.), which will allow him to delay final judgment and once again walk the Earth by killing bad things who managed to escape death and stay on the planet as monsters.
He is partnered with a former U.S. Marshal, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), who despite having served for — what was it? 200 years? — an incredibly long time, still speaks like he’s from the Wild West. Was this filmed right after Bridges finished True Grit? So, we have an unlikely duo who have to solve the case of … who cares? The whole film is such a slog that I can’t imagine anyone’s going to be watching for the story after the initial setup.
You’re here to see the two former police officers kill some supernatural creatures. You get to see that a couple of times. More of the film is dedicated to Nick whining about how he misses his wife (Stephanie Szostak), and the two R.I.P.D. members attempting to solve the crime initiated by Bobby, who is collecting more pieces of gold for a plan that makes sense, I guess, although it should have amounted to much more.
The sub-par CGI hurts the film. The lack of creativity harms it more. Essentially, all of these supernatural creatures just look like slightly grotesque people, with traits emphasized for “hilarity,” I’m guessing. A fat guy becomes fatter and a different color, for instance. They don’t become creatures so much as they become poor sketches from the mind of a 6-year-old who has only ever seen humans in his or her life. And when the bad guy finally transforms to his “real” form, he doesn’t even change much. Is it because you don’t want to distort the face of [actor’s name redacted]?
The action is incredibly dull, there’s no creativity to either it or the “monsters” that Nick and Roy fight, and there aren’t even many laughs to this “action-comedy.” Almost all of them come from Jeff Bridges, although he mumbles his way through the film so you can only actually understand him about half the time. He’s having a laugh, while everyone else is playing it straight and dull. At least someone recognized how awful this project is and decided to have some fun. Sadly, I doubt you’ll have as much fun as Bridges.
Buddy cop movies can be successful based solely on the chemistry between the two aforementioned “buddies.” There is no chemistry between Reynolds and Bridges. Their banter doesn’t do anything but irritate. The moments where they’re supposed to have one another’s backs are apparent even before they happen; the script is so predictable that it feels like the characters are going through the motions, not acting based on feelings or their respective personalities.
R.I.P.D. is based on a comic book and this might be one of the worst comic book adaptations to ever be filmed. I’m not even sure if Jonah Hex is worse, to be perfectly honest. I have never read the source material and the film does not function well as a 90-minute advertisement for — or endorsement of — it. sincerely hope those who sold the rights to their property never watch the adaptation.
It’s weird when a film tries too hard but also feels like it’s not trying hard enough. The comedy feels so forced that you can tell when the film is straining for laughs. The result is pathetic. If that much effort went into the design and execution of the rest of the film we might have another Men in Black or Ghostbusters. Instead, we get what feels like a cheap — and it wasn’t; R.I.P.D. had a budget of (gasp!) $130 million — imitation of those earlier, better films. It’s too dull to truly hate, and if you do happen to watch it at least feel good about the fact that it’ll likely disappear from your mind after a good sleep — which this movie might induce.
R.I.P.D. is a terrible attempt at cashing in on the Men in Black franchise. Sure, it might be based on an existing comic book, but its cinematic roots lie right by Men in Black. That would be fine if the film wasn’t so uncreative, heartless, unfunny, and boring. Unfortunately it is all of these things and more. It’s not worth watching even for a laugh. Jeff Bridges is one of the few people who will find this funny.