Directed by Robert Schwentke
Written by Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi and more
Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker and more
Movie trailers lie. It’s one of the basic facts of a movie fan’s life.
The trailers sold “R.I.P.D.” as an adventure comedy with a supernatural twist, sort of a “Men In Black” with dead people rather than aliens. Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges would have been perfect leads for this kind of movie, and I eagerly headed to the movie theater hoping for a new franchise to love.
I should have known.
The real heart of “R.I.P.D.” is somewhere between “Ghost” and “Robocop,” a wrenching tale of a man trying to avenge his own death and the broken-hearted woman he left behind. Sure, it’s all wrapped up in a “Men In Black”-style tortilla, but the comedic and tragic elements crash jarringly together throughout most of the movie. The comedy make the darker scenes seem cheap, and the sadness makes the jokes not seem that funny.
Ryan Reynolds plays Nick, a cop who’s desperately in love with his wife and has just recently been lured into some mildly dirty dealings. He quickly has a change of heart and tells his partner he can’t go through with it, which is the universal cop movie signal that he’s not going to survive the next few minutes. This is especially true when your partner is Kevin Bacon, who plays Hayes with a bright, false smile and freezing cold eyes.
Reynolds tries valiantly to keep both halves of the movie afloat, but as much as I love him he’s simply not nuanced enough to handle the full load of angst dropped on his head. He’s much better with the lighter moments, and helps make some of the jokes work that otherwise probably shouldn’t. Still, the lighter moments often come right after some solemn moment when he’s supposed to be working through his anger or grief, and Reynolds simply isn’t given much time to make them work.
Jeff Bridges, as a long-dead Old West lawman and Nick’s new partner, does what he can to bolster the movie’s humor. The actor is in full-tilt wacky mode, and there are some rare, wonderful moments when he and Reynolds can actually get some decent snark going. Those moments, however, are painfully rare, and the script mostly reduces Bridges to looking mildly confused when terrible things are happening around him.
Mary-Louise Parker, as the duo’s boss, has less of a load to carry. Her dry delivery helps bridge the gap between the movie’s humorous and serious impulses, but she’s not given enough to do to have much of an impact. There’s a romance hinted between her and Bridges’ character, but the confirmation mostly serves to make the audience wildly uncomfortable (seriously, avert your eyes).
Unsurprisingly, the end leaves things open for a sequel (or five, depending on the box office). I, however, won’t be going to see any of them. I learned my lesson.