R.I.P.D.

Posted by Michael Parsons on July 21, 2013 in / No Comments

 

I’ll be about the one thousandth critic to compare this film to “Men In Black” and “Ghostbusters” – congrats to me –  but I was surprised by the shades of “Beetlejuice” and “Ghost” that filled out the rest of Robert Schwentke’s unusually out-of-whack “R.I.P.D”, which, like its “deado” baddies, lacks any soul. This film should’ve been titled “Budget Without a Cause”.

RIPD-Bridges-Reynolds-ParkerI’ve already gone too deep with this review – there’s not much here other than an amalgam of concepts from the aforementioned classics, if pieced together without much regard for anyone that appreciated them. “R.I.P.D” is an aggressively underdeveloped adaptation of a comic book that should have remained in storyboard format – you know the type, there have been plenty of these over the last five years – with a good one-liner here and there, otherwise just a waste of everyone involved.

With its misplaced cast – Ryan Reynolds in a marginally better role than 2011’s “Green Lantern” and Jeff Bridges proving that playing an undead distant relative of Rooster Cogburn certainly won’t garner the same accolades that he received for 2010’s “True Grit” – “R.I.P.D” (Rest In Peace Department, if there’s any confusion about the acronym) feels like one of those big government purchases at the end of the fiscal year in an effort to secure next year’s budget. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way in Hollywood.

After Nick (Reynolds), a Boston detective, is murdered in a double-cross by his partner (Kevin Bacon – yes, him too), he’s immediately sent to an ambiguous realm where semi-reincarnated “lawmen” keep the peace between the world of the living and the dead. Or, sort of dead. There are a lot of fancy, expensive visuals to distract us from what anyone – or anything –  is doing, because there are so many inconsistencies that I think the filmmakers decided to go with a smoke-and-mirrors approach rather than a decent script (the mostly crappy dialogue, while giving Reynolds credit for always making me laugh, is the best part of the film).

d779a672e660318835bbdcd9b9ae4704Assigned to old-timer Roy (Bridges), a cartoonish 200-year U.S. Marshal who’s reluctant to take on a new partner, Nick learns how to deal with these “deados” – entities living among humans incognito – the hard way (though apparently, cumin – yes cumin, the spice – is all it takes to “out” them in all their disgusting, mucus-covered glory). What they’re trying to accomplish, which we eventually learn is linked to Nick’s old partner and a bunch of gold claimed from a drug bust, seems less important than the ridiculous antics of the supernatural characters that are continuously introduced and smacked around with the zaniness of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit”. To spice things up, I guess, are the bodies that the otherworldly cops use as their disguises around Earth’s mortals. In the real world, Roy and Nick look like Victoria’s Secret supermodel Marisa Miller and an “old Chinese guy” (played by the prolific James Hong) respectively – couldn’t be a more conspicuous looking duo, though it might have been more interesting if they appeared that way all the time (for at least one obvious reason). It’s a failed opportunity for some serious laughs.

Everything wraps up almost before you know it’s even started, which is actually to the film’s credit considering the bloat that has overcome most of these summer blockbusters. Though there are some fun, even funny moments, there’s really nothing inventive about “R.I.P.D”, which never gets past its own stupidity. This is a film that, despite some fancy effects, feels about ten years too late. In its big apocalyptic finale, the finer parts of which you can easily gather from the film’s trailer, it flaunts most of its budget – but also the majority of its flaws.

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Michael Parsons

Father. Realtor®. Movie nut. After pestering my parents for their commentary on “Star Wars” when I was four years old, my mind went into a creative frenzy. I’d imagined something entirely different than the actual film, which I didn’t end up seeing until its 1979 re-release at the Uptown Theater in Washington, DC. This was my formal introduction to the cinema.

During that long wait, which felt like an eternity to a child, my mind was being molded by more corrosive stuff like “Trilogy of Terror” and “Rosemary’s Baby”, most of which I’d conned various babysitters into letting me watch on television ( I convinced one poor lady that “Jaws” was actually “Moby Dick”).

The folks were pretty strict in that regard, so the less appropriate it was for a kid to watch, the more I was fascinated by it. Horror staples like “Halloween” and “Friday the 13th”, as well as lesser-known low-budget fare like “Madman”, “Sleepaway Camp” and “Pieces” all ended up sneaking their way into the VHS on a regular basis.

Since then, I’ve developed an obsession with the entire film industry. Even though I watch and review a wide breadth of films these days, my appreciation for the campy, poorly lit micro-budgeters still lends itself to my evolving perspective on movies just as much as the summer blockbusters and Oscar contenders. As I recall my trips to the movie theater, I realize that this stuff is about much more than just a fleeting piece of entertainment.

A couple years ago, I was finally given the opportunity to lend my opinion on films to a publication, The Rogers Revue, with a subsequent run at Reel Film News. It's been both a privilege and a gateway to what we’re doing now. Most of my experience has come from interviewing independent filmmakers, who consistently promote innovation. The filmmaking process is grueling and relatively unforgiving.

Fellow film enthusiast Eddie Pasa and I have created DC Filmdom as a medium for film reviews, discussion, and (inevitably) some debate. And so, the creative frenzy continues.

(Michael is a member of the Washington, DC Area Film Critics Association).

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