No really, ‘R.I.P.D.’ is not 80% ‘Men In Black’ and 20% ‘Ghostbusters’. Well, maybe it kind of is. In fact, the officers of the “Rest In Peace Department” in the movie are assigned the task of making sure that dead people get the heck off Earth and either up to heaven or down to hell. No lingerers. Guess we better tell all those ghostly malevolent spirits waiting for the next horror film.
Based on what was undoubtedly an amusing Dark Horse comic by Peter Lenkov, “R.I.P.D.” is so staggeringly derivative that even with its occasional amusing lines and situations, there were all too many moments when it was hard to remember exactly what film we were watching in the theater. And the 3D? Yawn. Is 3D ever really going to enhance a movie?
The story revolves around Boston cops Nick (Ryan Reynolds) and his buddy Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Having an attack of conscience about some gold the two of them stole during a drug bust, Nick tells Hayes at the very beginning of the film that he can’t keep the gold, he needs to come clean. Hayes – surprise! – doesn’t like that idea and five minutes later Nick’s dead and sitting in a grey room being stared down by the tough, emotionless Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). He’s dead. He can go to meet St. Peter and try his luck on going up or going down (ya know) or he can join R.I.P.D. and help keep the Earth free of dead folk who are still hanging around. His reluctant RIPD partner? A grizzled old west lawman named Roy (Jeff Bridges). Yeah, that trope of the senior and junior cop forced to be partners even though the senior guy insists he works alone. To his credit, at least Bridges looks like he has fun in his role, which is more than I can say for the rest of the limp cast, all of whom have done better films in the last few years.
Even by this early point in the movie it’s clear that there are going to be no surprises and no clichés will be left untapped, so best to put your brain in neutral and just watch the mostly decent effects and action sequences. Dead people on Earth apparently look and behave astonishingly like the weird aliens from the much wittier ‘Men In Black’ series and they all seem to be deathly allergic to Indian food.
Yeah, haha. Indian food. Even talking to them about Indian food causes them to get ill, which makes it a dead cinch that none of ’em work at an Indian or Pakistani take-away, right? But really, is this some subtle form of racism? I still can’t figure it out.
Meanwhile, us living humans see Nick as an old Chinese guy (long-time character actor James Hong, who I much, much prefer from his minor role in ‘Blade Runner’) and Roy as a voluptuous brunette who recalls Jessica Rabbit from ‘Who Framed Roger Rabbit?’ (played by Marisa Miller, an actual Victoria’s Secret lingerie model who, well, has zero acting ability but, um, that’s not why she got the role anyway). Every time she’s shown, the film moves into slow motion and sultry music is played. Amusing the first time, but after a while, it got daft, and frankly within the storyline itself, we should have seen Hong and Miller more often, but Bacon and Reynolds are the box office draw, so they won the screen battle hands down.
Fortunately, as I said, there’s nothing to really figure out at all. Just sit back and watch the car chases, the CG models of actors leaping from building to building, bouncing around walls, and generally causing undead mayhem (but far, far less interestingly than the zombies in the surprisingly intense ‘World War Z’). There’s some nonsense about a gateway that’ll reverse the pipe between Earth and purgatory, something that had me scratching my head and looking for the Keymaster of Gozer, but really, if you enjoy the actors, if you’re a fan of the comic book, maybe this is worth catching in the theater. Or you can just wait for something better to come along.