I’m a pretty ardent Ryan Reynolds defender and feel he’s been given a bum rap by critics and public alike. Sure, Green Lantern and The Change-Up weren’t the wisest career choices, but I think he is a capable actor who treads easily between genres and character types. That doesn’t make his outing in R.I.P.D any easier to swallow, however. Reynolds plays Nick, a police detective who gets offed by his crooked partner early on. He finds himself in the underworld’s Rest in Peace Department, which reins in the “deados” who are deceased but refuse to move on into the afterlife, choosing instead to roam the world disguised as regular folks. Nick is partnered with Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), or Roy, a gruff U.S. Marshal from the Civil War days. Neither is pleased with his assignment; Nick would rather be un-dead, and Roy is not up to this partner bullshit ordered by his lady boss (Mary-Louise Parker).
Bridges, hidden under a bucket of a cowboy hat and a fine, silvery goatee, seems to especially enjoy his time as rough ridin’ Roy, a man who throws his authority around with one mean glance whether he’s in the Wild West or the streets of Boston. Reynolds meanwhile works in his trademark sarcasm in pinches, though he plays more of a straight man here. Despite their best efforts though, the film never takes off. It’s, how do I put it, dead on arrival.
The general conceit, borrowed from a comic book, is intriguing, if a little MIB-ish. Nick and Roy try to sniff out deados by baiting them with food and strange questions, also by literally sniffing them. The clever ones know how to mask the trademark stench. In the midst of the hunt, the two stumble upon a plan involving missing gold pieces that could undo the work of the R.I.P.D. and flood earth with dead people. Nick knows his former partner, Bobby (Kevin Bacon), is somehow involved and races to stop him.
The chase proves to be a snore, despite bullets and bodies ricocheting across the screen, and out of if you watched in 3D. Also, where the action doesn’t sustain the viewer, there’s not much comedy to pick up the slack. The film never pretends to be serious, but it doesn’t do much to add levity to the proceedings either. It also barely registers an emotional boost from the romance between Nick and his wife (Stéphanie Szostak). Eventually the novelty of dead officers disguised as an old Chinese guy and a hot blonde wears off, and the film is unmasked for what it is – a mediocre buddy cop movie that’s short on imagination and chemistry.
Prod: Peter M. Lenkov, Neal H. Moritz, Mike Richardson
Dir: Robert Schwentke
Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stéphanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Robert Knepper
Time: 96 min
Country: United States