Dead people aren’t dead, or at least they’re not taking it lying down. They’re coming back into the world, squeaking through the cracks and trying to keep some semblance of their lives up. And in the process, running the world to rot. Someone’s got to keep them in line and that’s where the forces of the Rest In Peace Department, the “R.I.P.D.” come in.
If it sounds like Men in Black with ghosts instead of aliens that’s because that’s exactly what it is, just with a bit less wit and slickness.
But with pretty much the same dynamic, from world ending plot to the older, more experienced partner (Jeff Bridges) showing a new guy the ropes and a hope by the filmmakers that the strength of the individual moments keeps the audience from noticing how weakly the whole is structured.
What is good is pretty good, and most of that can be summed up as Jeff Bridges, playing the role like a demented Rooster Cogburn. He knows exactly how laid back to be and how little seriousness to apply to a fairly ridiculous premise. It helps that he gets most of the funniest lines, and doesn’t have any strenuous emotional baggage to deal with.That’s left to newly deceased partner Ryan Reynolds, a dirty cop who was murdered by his partner (Kevin Bacon) and now must pay penance by bring the dead—Deado’s, in RIPD lingo—back for judgement. This is the sort of thing Reynolds should be able to do well, spending most of his scenes flinging one liners back and forth with Bridges, but it never works quite as well as it should, with Bridges often getting the upper hand.
Most of that is because Nick (Reynolds) is weighed down by longing for his now widowed wife and keeps trying to sneak off his cases to go visit her. It’s not a bad idea but not strong enough to make up for giving up time on the ghost chase to make room for it.
It’s also the biggest of big no-no’s in the RIPD manual as informed to him by his new boss Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) who is the next best thing in the movie and it’s hard not to think that a film with her and Bridges snarking at each other the whole time wouldn’t have been better. But then again maybe not, as the filmmakers run every good joke they do come across into the ground.
Because the R.I.P.D. must remain a secret, civilians naturally view them as someone other than themselves. For instance, an old Chinese man (James Hong) for Nick and a supermodel (Marissa Miller) for Roy. It’s a good joke the first time. And even the second and third; watching Marissa Miller bounce along the side of a building yelling ‘ride ‘em cowboy’ while Roy is in hot pursuit is worth a gander, no doubt. By the fiftieth time, however, it becomes clear even the filmmakers realize it’s one of the few jokes that work and they’re going to have to keep going back to it.
Director Robert Schwentke (“Red”) has shown his ability to handle this sort of thing before; balancing just the right level of quirkiness and action, but it all gets away from him with “R.I.P.D.”
Some of that is the nature of the film which has to spew a hefty amount of exposition in most scenes as the world is busy being built. But a lot of it is just the look of the thing. The effects work on display is frequently subpar with rubber characters and hideous computer monsters that through you out of what should be effectively developed action pieces.
In the world of the effects driven action comedy it’s okay, mainly because Bridges is so good in it, but hampered by bad execution. There are worse ways to spend your time, but there also have to be better ways.