'R.I.P.D.' (2013) Movie Review

R.I.P.D. movie review
Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds in R.I.P.D.
Photo: Universal Pictures

There's no doubt in my mind Universal gave up on R.I.P.D. as soon as they saw a first cut and were willing to only do the bare minimum to salvage what they could. The final product looks unfinished from the beginning as a giant blob of a man storms down a hallway, busts through a wall and chaos in the streets ensues. On top of this, many additional effects look unfinished and temporary, and while it's not as if effects would have saved the picture in any way, they are evidence of a production left floundering.

The film underwent reshoots at the end of 2012 as I can only assume Universal decided it was best to spend a little extra money on story rather than effects and while I wouldn't say R.I.P.D. is an all-out disaster, it falls apart little-by-little before it settles on an ending we've seen countless times before. As the sky opens with Hell on Earth upon us we look on with eye-rolling wonder saying, "Oh no, will the heroes save the day or will the bad guys win? Oh... the horror!"

Leading up to this not-so-original finale, fortunately they managed to find a way to finish the effects on a building that comes crashing down as cars are thrown about. Thank God! It's not like we haven't seen that before.

Grade: D+

R.I.P.D."R.I.P.D." is a Universal Pictures release, directed by Robert Schwentke and is rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references.

The cast includes Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Stephanie Szostak, Mary-Louise Parker, Marisa Miller, Mike O'Malley, James Hong and Robert Knepper.

Based on Peter M. Lenkov's Dark Horse comic, R.I.P.D. was written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi, the duo that collaborated on such universal hits as Clash of the Titans and ├ćon Flux, which should immediately give you some idea of what's in store.

The film gets its title from the idea there is a police department that watches over the Earth from beyond the grave. The aptly named organization is known as the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.) and after his partner double-crosses him, Boston police detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is initiated among the department's ranks. Here he's joined by a veteran sheriff from the 1800s, Roy Pulsifer played by Jeff Bridges who decided to do the entire film using the same voice affectations he used for Rooster Cogburn in the Coen brothers' True Grit, the only difference being Roy is quite a bit more garrulous than Rooster and the novelty begins to wear off very, very quickly.

Just seeing a trailer will inspire comparisons to the vastly superior Men in Black, which has been blended together with Ghostbusters as Nick and Roy team to police souls that have escaped judgment and have been hiding among Earth's citizens. In the process they stumble on a plot to collect the pieces of an ancient artifact that will reverse the ascension of the dead to judgment and instead send the wicked straight back to Earth. Why this makes any sense is never quite clear, but I suspect it's covered in the "bad guys will do bad things" section of the "Screenwriting for Beginnners" manual so we'll just accept it and move on.

There's a touch of Ghost mixed in as Nick feels the need to haunt his now widowed wife (Stephanie Szostak), but instead of channeling Whoopi Goldberg, he looks like an elderly Chinese man (played by the oft-funny James Hong), and as it turns out, this is one of the few running gags that gave me a laugh or two throughout. Roy is also seen differently by humans, though instead he has the appearance of a gorgeous blonde played by Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Marisa Miller. Again, it works, especially the imagery of a supermodel thrown into buildings as she attempts to wrangle in an escaped monster of a man, or "Deado" as they are referred to in the film.

Otherwise you're looking at a film that feels soulless and empty. As a matter of fact, it's a perfectly fitting addition to a summer of big budget films that all seem to pick up after where the other left off. It's a shame to see a cast that also includes Kevin Bacon and Mary-Louise Parker couldn't be used to greater advantage, but such is life.

I have no idea what the script for this thing looked like before they went into production, but hopefully studio execs and producers will begin looking a little closer at these projects and when they get to the moment in the screenplay where it says, "And then they have a car chase through the street where portals to other dimensions are opening and buildings are crashing down to the ground," they'll ask themselves, "Why?" Because if they can't answer that question the same must be asked about the film itself.


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More Reviews
  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Adu/ Adu

    This had disaster written all over it the moment I saw the awful looking trailer.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

    I actually expected better than this, like a D+ or something. I'm still not going to see it.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Xarnis/ Xarnis

      Sorry, not D+, but something like a C-.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Hudsucker/ Hudsucker

    If you told 12 year old me that they'd make a movie that blended Men in Black and Ghostbusters I would have been excited. Why must you disappoint us so much Hollywood?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

    Oh dear, sounds like a nightmare, i certainly don't envy your job sometimes :-) The film was never gonna escape from those Men In Black comparisons but did the world need another "collect the pieces of an ancient artifact" movie? With a budget of around $130m it may just make a profit though.
    One question, if they do a sequel will it be called R.I.P.Duex? ;-)

  • Tony Lee

    Mary-Louise Parker has two films opening on the same weekend. Is she even doing any press for RIPD?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ryguy815/ Ryguy815

    Well that's a disappointment. I can't say I expected you to like it very much though. However I'm still going to see it sometime next week.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TheLastEquivocationofBrist/ TheLastEquivocationofBrist

    Did you have to watch this one at midnight Brad? Sounds miserable.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/ Brad Brevet

      Nah, last minute screening.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Corbin/ Corbin

    That was a disappointment, but I'll still see it.

  • Josh McLaughlin

    One reason why I don't like Ryan Reynolds: He seems to be the kiss of death in movies (with the public's possible exceptions of "Buried" and "Turbo").

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Roger/ Roger Judd

      I see what you mean, but I have a hard time understanding why. I mean, The Proposal worked. He was good in Safe House. The Croods was successful. Green Lantern wasn't his fault, that whole movie was a disaster regardless of who was the star.

      He has everything going for him that he should be able to headline a movie with no problem. So why do Ryan Reynolds movies tend to fail? It's an interesting topic. Agents? Poor script picking? General "bad luck"? Then again, he hasn't been in THAT much starring or co-starring movies if you check his list of films. I would say his track record is 50/50 if you look at his movies in the past 10 years.

      I always liked him since his TV show. I just hope his future movies give him more positive reviews.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/andyluvsfilms/ andyluvsfilms

        i think luck plays a big part, if you sign up for R.I.P.D for example you're then unavailable for everything else. Also, as i understand a script can change even during filming so what he originally signed up for could have changed dramatically by the time he got on the set, I'll use the Lone Ranger/Werewolf situation as an example

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/alakran/ alakran

    but what did you think of the rumoured fully cg kevin bacon? i thought it looked fantastic.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

    Oh dear..........is that the sound of Universal's profits from DM2 and FF6 being washed away with likely losses for R.I.P.D?

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/maja/ maja

      Yikes - didn't realise this had a $130m budget...it looks like a $30m budget sort of film.

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Roger/ Roger Judd

        Where on earth did they spend 130M.....that's ridiculous

      • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Winchester/ Winchester

        I think it could be worse than that. A while back I read the budget was supposed to be $200 million but Deadline is claiming the budget was $182 reduced by breaks/incentives to around $155 million.

        And it looks like it won't even open to $15 million dollars.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/seanfast/ Sean Fast

    Shame. Read the script for this back in '11 and really enjoyed it, but when I saw that godawful trailer, I was very disappointed. Some changes were obviously made. For instance, Ryan Reynolds character didn't appear as an old asian man to the public, but a little girl in a girl scout uniform. Which made for the scenes where he's taking down dudes and kicking butt to be pretty humorous. They also did a good job I remember of fully exploiting the premise. Sure it's MIB and Ghostbusters, but they definitely put work into fully exploring how to represent their world for this story.

    Brad, you asked about "I have no idea what the script for this thing looked like before they went into production", if you want the draft I read back in 2011, let me know, I'd be happy to send it over.

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Ryguy815/ Ryguy815

      I saw the film yesterday and [SPOILER] Ryan Reynolds still appeared as a Girl Scout to the public. In the final scene of the film, Jeff Bridges gives Ryan Reynolds a new avatar as a gift because he knows he didn't like being the old Chinese man. The new avatar is a Girl Scout.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/Silrian/ Silrian

    One of the best closing sentences to a review awarding a low grade, I think I've ever read. Hit the nail right on the head for so many bad films.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/ghislaine/ ghislaine

    And yet this is the movie I can get lots of people to go with me to see. It's disappointing to hear the filmmakers gave up on it, especially on the clarity and fun of the story. But it seems in retrospect that so many of this summers films had stinking rotten derivative stories. Worse, they were derived from movies I didn't even like. At least this is a pastiche of movies that amused me.

    At least in this one, I can watch some of my favorites, Ryan Reynold, Jeff Bridges, and James Hong. I wish James Hong had a bigger part, I love that guy. And as far as special effects go, unless it's LOTR or The Hobbit and perfectly blended with the story, i just don't care if they're low rent. I zone out in those parts anyway. So pass the popcorn please. And if it's really terrible, we'll go for drinks after. Or would before be better?

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/kathrynlynn/ kathrynlynn

    I really thought this sounded like a fun idea, and I actually wasn't turned off by the trailers- I like Ryan Reynolds for the most part, and Jeff Bridges is a favorite of mine- I was expecting something like a ghostbusters...

    ...and what I got was... just irrelevant.

    Some of the CGI was really great, but ultimately I found the film just largely uninteresting.

    I think a movie that's comparable from this year is Hansel and Gretel... and if given the option I'd rather watch that again than this.

  • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/profile/TVsRoss/ TVs Ross

    Seriously expected an F based on the trailer I saw before Oblivion, which I also expected an F on.