R.I.P.D. has the ingredients of a blockbuster: Robert Schwentke of Red directs the Men in Black-style buddy cop comic adaptation, starring Jeff Bridges as a rugged law man not unlike Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. Ryan Reynolds is theoretically the weakest link in the movie, and his physicality and expressiveness make him a perfect co-star for this quirky, tongue-in-cheek action-comedy about a police department tasked with catching escaped dead people and returning them to Hell.
Theoretically it should work. But theory and fact don’t always align.
Such is the case here, despite everyone’s best intentions. In “classic” buddy cop fashion, a veteran loner (Bridges) who’s been serving in the Rest In Peace Department since the 1800s gets paired with a just-dead “rookie” cop (Reynolds). Both were betrayed by their partners and so both are averse to teamwork. But for Reynolds, the betrayal is rooted in something sinister–a point around which the movie quickly revolves.
The special effects-heavy thrill ride–despite its quick thrust into the main story–struggles from the get-go. Schwentke makes a hasty set-up feel like forever as Reynold’s Nick gets backstabbed by his partner (Kevin Bacon) and sent off to eternity during an explosive drug bust in an old warehouse.
Lots of creative camerawork draws out shots that don’t have enough action or depth of story to sustain them. After floating to the afterlife Nick gets recruited by On High’s Eternal Affairs division to work in the Boston bureau of the Rest In Peace Department. But the concept of heaven and hell are mostly just obligatory plot devices used to separate the good guys from the grotesqueries.
From the start, poorly-scripted jokes and bad CGI overwhelm this weak supernatural setup. R.I.P.D.’s story arcs were overused long before Schwentke got a hold of them. Bridges and Reynolds pick at each other’s crime-fighting styles in between chasing “deados.” Reynolds mourns the loss of his happy life with wife Julie (Stephanie Szostak). Mary-Louise Parker is the hardened bureau chief that rips the team a new one whenever they’re in the office. Each moment features a strong cast wringing a long-dead plot device of any joke left. There are a few, but not nearly enough to really sustain the movie.
Schwentke tries to redeem the tale with a few good fight scenes, a western shootout and by cutting between the two officers and their absurd visible personas. Reynolds is seen by the living as an old Asian man (James Hong) and Bridges struts about as a hot blonde (Marisa Miller) armed with a hairdryer. It’s good for a few laughs when Bridges tells off a would-be beau. Fans of the cast may enjoy themselves, but such moments can’t quite redeem it for the rest of the living.