Directed by Robert Schwentke
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marissa Miller
The plot, characters, tone and general intent of Men In Black get another go-round in this weary comic book adaptation from director, Robert Schwentke (RED).
Ryan Reynolds is Nick Walker, a cop who, after being betrayed and murdered by his corrupt partner (a hammy Kevin Bacon), finds himself given the opportunity to work off some bad karma with a century-long stint in the Rest In Peace Department (geddit?), whose mandate is to hunt down evil ghosts that threaten earth. He is partnered up with Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges, the best thing here by a country mile), a veteran R.I.P.D. officer who was an Old West Marshall back when he was alive. As is customary in these scenarios, they stumble across a plot that not only threatens the entire world, but also Nick’s widow, Julia (Stephanie Szostak).
All up, it’s a laborious exercise, with very little originality to its credit. In addition to the blatant swipes from Men In Black – swap out ghosts for aliens and they’re almost indistinguishable – there’s a lot of Ghostbusters in the film’s workaday approach to the supernatural and inexplicable. Don’t mistake that for a good thing, though; R.I.P.D. is comparable to Ghostbusters in much the same way that Evolution is – a similar concept executed to much lesser effect.
Bridges aside – and at this point in the game his excellence is something we can just about take for granted – the rest of the cast is a mixed bag. Reynolds is as blandly inoffensive as ever, managing to be simultaneously likable and unengaging. Mary-Louise Parker has little to do as our heroes’ superior officer, while James Hong and Marissa Miller turn up as Nick and Roy’s alter egos – living people see Nick as Hong and Roy as Miller, which does lead to some fun running gags, although once again the concept isn’t original; it’s a lift from the cult series, Dead Like Me.
Hell, everything’s a lift here. R.I.P.D. might be the most unoriginal non-sequel or reboot we’ve seen in years, a concoction of elements that have worked previously and, if you have a calculator where your heart is, should work here. That it doesn’t is proof that good films are more than the sum of their parts. Even the discrete pieces that do work – some nice monster designs, albeit crudely executed; the odd well-timed gag; Jeff Bridges – are largely overwhelmed, lost in a wash of mediocrity.
To be fair, R.I.P.D. is not the worst film ever made. It’s not even the worst film to come out this year. It is, however, a resolutely average one; a middle-of-the-road paint-by-numbers affair that, in trying to please everybody, won’t really appeal to anybody. It’s difficult to imagine never having anything better to do than watch this one. Save it for a hungover Sunday.