Theatrical Review: R.I.P.D.

Nick Walker is a Boston police detective with much on his mind. On a recent drug bust, he and his partner, Bobby Hayes, unexpectedly recovered some mysterious gold pieces that weren’t part of the bust. Both of the detectives took the gold without reporting it, and now this deed weighs heavily on Nick. The next day, Nick tells his partner that he’s going to report the gold, but won’t say a thing about Bobby keeping his- and then both are sent out on a major operation. As this operation is going down, Bobby shoots Nick dead. At that moment, Nick believes he is about to get his final judgement, but he’s yanked away and brought before a woman known as The Proctor. Nick has just discovered that he’s dead and The Proctor is the Boston bureau chief of the R.I.P.D., the Rest In Peace Department. The job of the R.I.P.D. is to protect and serve the living from creatures who refuse to move peacefully into the afterlife, known here as Deados.

Nick is made an offer to serve a 100-year term with the R.I.P.D. and he quickly accepts and just as he accepts, he learns he’s to be partnered with an R.I.P.D veteran, old West Sheriff Roy Pulsifer, who’s not exactly thrilled to have a partner. Something’s brewing in the Deado community and now it’s up to Walker and Pulsifer to put a stop to it.

R.I.P.D. is the latest comic book to movie adaptation and it comes to us from director Robert Schwentke, who’s best known for directing another comic-to-film adaptation, Red (which I haven’t seen) and the Jodie Foster thriller from a few years back, Flightplan (which I have seen and the less said the better). I’m a comic book fan, but I’ve not read R.I.P.D., so I can’t really say how faithful this is to it’s source.

If you’ve seen the trailers for R.I.P.D., then more than likely you’ve gotten a vibe off of them that’s a lot like the Men In Black movies. Not knowing the source material, I can’t say if that’s exactly the same there as well, but it’s certainly evident with the film. The whole film is virtually staged and set up just like the first Men In Black movie, but doesn’t exactly have the same style (or it’s own style) with it’s execution, making for a final piece that’s just sort of there and nothing else. Schwentke does a good job of making his main players look really cool (all scenes that you’ve seen in the trailer), but offers up little else. One neat little piece here is that when back in the world of the living, the R.I.P.D. officers have completely different appearances- for Nick Walker, it’s an old Chinese man (played by veteran actor James Hong) and for Roy Pulsifer, it’s a supermodel (played by supermodel Marissa Miller), that little juxtaposition of character types is pretty clever and when it’s used on-screen, it offers up some pretty nice moments, but not enough to really make R.I.P.D. stand out. Even with that, the rest of the movie still feels like warmed-over Men In Black.

I mentioned that Schwentke makes his main players look cool, I just wish it was the same with the visual effects as well. The Deados, when exposed, take on monstrous appearances that definitely feel like CGI models and don’t exactly feel natural to the rest of the movie. This could certainly be intentional, and while I’m not opposed to visual effects that look more theatrical than natural, there’s still something here that just feels a little off.

Ryan Reynolds plays Nick (marking his fourth comic book movie) and Jeff Bridges plays Roy. Reynolds is OK here, but there’s nothing real distinctive about the part. Bridges hams it up as the Old West lawman and not necessarily in a good way. Some of his lines just come off as unintelligible gibberish making me wish he would’ve shown a little restraint with his character. Mary-Louise Parker plays The Proctor, and for me anyway, she’s the really bright spot in the cast, having a distinctive style about her and some pretty snappy line delivery. You wouldn’t know it by seeing the trailers, but Kevin Bacon is in the film as Nick’s former partner, Bobby Hayes and our villain of the piece. Bacon’s serviceable in the part, but again, like so much else in the movie, it’s a by-the-numbers villain.

R.I.P.D. has a few good ideas, but it’s over-shadowed by being too much like Men In Black, and doesn’t do much to really stand apart from that. It’s not a horrible movie by any means, but in comparison to a lot of the other big summer fare, it just comes off as average more than anything else. I do think it’s watchable, but I’d also advise to maybe wait until it hits cable or Netflix streaming to take the plunge.

By Darren Goodhart

Darren Goodhart is a 44-year old St. Louis-based Graphic Designer and Illustrator (and former comic book artist) who's been seeing movies all his life, but on an almost weekly basis in theatres for the last 20 years and owns nearly 1,000 DVDs for his home theatre. He's learned a lot about film over the 20 year period, and has taken his appreciation beyond the mainstream. His favorite types of film are mostly genre entertainment, but he also enjoys a wide range of drama, action and cult-y stuff from around the world, and is currently re-discovering a love affair with lower budget exploitation and genre films from the 70s and early 80s. He doesn't try to just dismiss any film, but if there's a bias against one, he'll certainly tell you that in the space of his reviews.

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