The summer of 2013 won’t exactly go down in the annals of cinematic greatness (kind of like the rest of 2013), and while there may have been bigger disappointments, you won’t find a film released in that period more indicative of what’s wrong with the system than R.I.P.D., a lazy knock-off of Men in Black without one-tenth of the wit or cleverness, it somehow managed to corral a couple of A-listers it clearly didn’t deserve to deliver onscreen boredom for theaters rightfully bereft of audiences. Hit the jump for my full review.
The premise is simple and might have carried some juice had someone bothered to think it through past the “hastily scribbled on an iPad at the end of a concept pitch” stage. Ryan Reynolds plays a cop killed in the line of duty pressed into acting as a kind of ghost cop: hunting down wayward souls and returning them to the Great Beyond. He’s joined by Jeff Bridges, dusting off his Rooster Cogburn routine as a former cowpoke still gunning down outlaws a century and change later.
From the beginning, the pro forma nature of the exercise sucks the film’s energy dry. Everyone is going through the motions; the special effects are barely adequate, the plot consists of recycled buddy cop clichés married to tone-deaf jokes, and the few decent ideas arrive strangled on their own umbilical cords. Every element betrays the tired calculation of corporate groupthink. “Base it on a comic book, throw in some irreverence, find a cheap effects house to give us the sheen of a viable universe… it writes itself!”
Unfortunately, it doesn’t. Director Robert Schwentke misses the requisite absurdity by a country mile, leaving awkward non-starters and whole lot of dead air in its wake. Universal tipped its hand with a semi-cold opening back in July, but even that can’t prepare you for the appalling nonchalance that results. Nothing about RIPD suggests that anyone involved cared about the outcome. The only one who comes close is Bridges, happy to give Rooster a curtain call and playing up some of the better notions (such as the fact that his spirit inhabits the mortal body of a swimsuit model). The twinkle in his eye should be infectious: Reynolds certainly ups his game in an effort to keep pace. But the rest of the production is an absolute waste. You can make a drinking game out of the moments when each cast member gives up and starts spending their paycheck money in their head.
The rest of the film matches suit, an embarrassing effort that can’t find anything interesting about its concept and never bothers to try. No one was expecting great things from this movie, but a little entertainment wasn’t too much to ask. It’s not like its fellow would-be blockbusters were blowing us all away. But RIPD isn’t the least bit interested in justifying itself. It exists to conjure up a fast buck, and acts shocked when the canny audience didn’t follow suit. A year from now, I’d be surprised if anyone remembered it. Those who do will shake their heads sadly, then shrug and pop in MIB instead. If there’s anything worse than a bad film, it’s a forgettable film… this one so forgettable that calling it bad would actually be a kindness.
The disc itself actually has some selling points, though that doesn’t do the film many favors. The clean transfer looks nice – helping the dreadful CG effects to look even shoddier – while the extra features include about an hour of blooper reels, behind-the-scenes shots and making-of featurettes. An average package for a decidedly below average film; it should consider itself lucky.