The most important thing I can say about R.I.P.D. is: Don’t waste your precious hours and monies. You are worth far more than anything this movie is offering you. I’m sure there are a few people out there giving it the thumbs up by way of an “It’s cute!” or “I laughed some!” or “It has gross special effects!” Don’t listen to them. Pretend they said something else to you, something innocuous about the weather or how cute your dog is.
I assume that a few of you will require more explanation than that, so I promise to give you that. It’s only fair. To start, I have a confession to make…
Crime #1: It is a Soporific
I fell asleep for about half the movie. And my dismay is not even really directed at how boring the movie had to be to induce slumber, it’s more the fact that I don’t fall asleep at movies. I frequent midnight showings on two hours of sleep the night before, and I can stay awake for those, even if I’m suddenly miserable as soon as the credits begin. (It’s sort of like feeling your body kick into hangover mode before you get the chance to sleep some of the alcohol off.) Usually the buzz of a good movie provides enough of an adrenaline kick to keep you going. If it reaches the bonus level, it engages your brain enough that it’s impossible to doze. Which lets you know exactly how engaging R.I.P.D. was. Not only did it fail to stimulate gray matter (no surprise there), but the action wasn’t even good enough to get that explosion-high wave that should carry you through. Also, in falling asleep, you lose nothing important that you need to continue watching.
Crime #2: The Dead Stay Dead and Gross and Stuff
Why do afterlife police spend their time patrolling for dead people who went AWOL? Why not some other, equally icky afterlife creatures? You get what they give you in movies, sure, but the way the “deados” (it burns just typing that) are actualized in this instance doesn’t make much sense, and no one makes a move to fix that. The actual conceit of hunting down the dead might have played better if the film weren’t clearly trying to rip-off Men in Black in the most unambiguous way possible. The difference is, Men In Black actually had some things going for it, starting with a consistent sense of humor. Also, the creatures that need policing in MiB were fun because they were aliens. The expectations of aliens is basically that anything goes, which led to great visual gags and general oddities all around that didn’t require the cohesiveness of a single species or type of monster. But it’s clear that the dead function the way they do in R.I.P.D. to give fodder to the effects crew and make the movie look weird. If that’s the entire thought process put into your big bad, it might be time to go back and stare thoughtfully at your drawing board.
Crime #3: The Living Disguises
You know what would have been awesome? If the main characters of R.I.P.D. had been swapped—if the woman and elderly Asian man that Bridges and Reynolds looked like in the living world had been the true R.I.P.D. duo, and their outward appearances had been that typically expected white-guy duo. Because then you could actually make some interesting commentary. I understand that it’s a comedy, but it’s not like they would have had to go too dark with it; just acknowledging the issues would have given the film a little more to chew on. As it is, the film comes off vaguely sexist and racist by virtue of just not caring all that much, i.e. isn’t it funny that we have this supremely unlikely team to do goofy, violent humor with? Why? Because the woman is blonde and vampy and wearing a lot of makeup? Because the old man is Asian and wearing an unflattering hat? At least if they had been the true detectives, they might have been distinct characters rather than simple stereotypes. Besides, with Bridges playing an old Marshal from the Wild West, there’s already plenty of stock character boredom to go around.
Crime #4: The Movie Has No Idea Who It’s For
Who were they planning on roping in for this one? Everyone is going to shout about the ever-insisted-upon 18-25 male demographic, but it really doesn’t look like this movie is for them when better action films are available at every theater they’re going to. Jeff Bridges was intended to rope in fans of The Dude and perhaps an older crowd, but Reynolds doesn’t have the pull for big box office, which Green Lantern already proved. It’s awesome that Mary-Louise Parker is in the movie, (and she’s one of the few high points,) but she’s got a very specific set of fans too. Devotees of The Ghostbusters are going to see right through this, so they’re a no-go. Fans of the comic? It doesn’t look like the film even remotely resembles Rest in Peace Department, (outside of Bridges’ moustache). If the movie had toned down the special effects goo and applied Parker’s deadpan delivery to everything, the film might have gained some cult status. Looks like no one was courageous enough to broach the subject.
Crime #5: Ryan. Reynolds.
Look, I’m sure Reynolds is a nice guy and that he’s got some great acting chops in there that he’s dying to show off to the world. We know he can handle a one-liner, since Deadpool was one of the only things that made it past the fog of X-Men Origins: Wolverine. But why people keep casting him in these oddball comedies is beyond me. He comes off sort of… watery. Like someone diluted him. His character, Nick Walker, doesn’t have much to him to begin with, and Reynolds doesn’t add anything to make the journey worth while. He just spends the movie blinking puppy eyes and looking concerned while Bridges proceeds to walk all over him with more unnecessary gravitas than a conquering emperor. It’s awkward, which only adds to the general awkward flavor of the whole film. It’s an ice cream cone of awkward topped with Ryan Reynolds rainbow sprinkles. Maybe Ben & Jerry will make it for me….
Never mind, that sounds awful.
Emmet Asher-Perrin does think that someone with an ice cream shop could make a mint on “The Awkward Ice Cream Cone.” She has written essays for the newly released Doctor Who and Race and Queers Dig Time Lords. You can bug her on Twitter and read more of her work here and elsewhere.