/Movie Review – R.I.P.D.

Movie Review – R.I.P.D.

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– Summary –

Director :  Robert Schwentke
Year Of Release :   2013
Principal Cast :  Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon, Mary Louise-Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Devin Ratray, Robert Knepper, Mike O’Malley.
Approx Running Time :   98 Minutes
Synopsis:   After being killed by his crooked partner, Boston Police officer Nick Walker is “resurrected” to join the Rest In Peace Department, an afterlife cop force hunting down the dead who walk the Earth.
What we think :   Utterly silly Men in Black ripoff delivers a few vague chuckles and some cool concepts, but feels entirely too contrived for my liking. Reynolds does a good job, Jeff Bridges provides much of the humor, and Kevin Bacon again plays nasty, but director Robert Schwentke’s ADD-directorial style leaves any sense of fun, energy and memorable entertainment struggling for room amidst the poor effects, the crazy physics and ludicrous plotting. A waste of time, made all the more embarrassing by terrible CGI.

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Protecting the Earth from the scum of the afterlife.

Imagine if you saw a film, and loved it so much, all you could think of was remaking that film in your own way and filling it to the brim with every single idea ever conceived by the mind of mankind? That’s exactly what RIPD feels like to watch – like Schwentke (and screenwriters Phil Hay and Pat Manfredi) were let loose with a bunch of Hollywood money to completely revamp Men in Black. Only this time, instead of aliens, our central law enforcement types are now in pursuit of the living dead. Hell, they even steal the basic premise for Men in Black’s apocalyptic Bad Guy plot, by trying to end the Earth through a mysterious (and hard to obtain) talisman. It’s little wonder the film met with such a mauling by critics and audiences alike, although the mix of has-been story, characters and ideas, coupled with Schwentke’s utterly inane direction, certainly justifies whatever scorn comes its way anyways. RIPD look like a typical big0-budget summer blockbuster; it has the humor, the effects and a decent cast, and if you saw the trailers you’d be forgiven for thinking the film had grand ambitions of… well, greatness. It’s a pity the sum of its parts adds up to a relatively inconsequential time in the company of the reliable Jeff Bridges and the disaster-prone Ryan Reynolds.

You know, I couldn't have done this without you, God.
You know, I couldn’t have done this without you, God.

Synopsis courtesy Wikipedia: Boston Police Department Detectives Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) stole a chest full of gold found during a drug bust, and Nick buries his share of the gold in his backyard, intending to use it to create a better life for himself and his wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak). However, he regrets his decision and informs Hayes he intends to return the gold. Later, during a raid on a warehouse, Nick and Hayes get into a shootout with criminals, and Hayes kills Nick to prevent him from returning the gold, framing one of the criminals for the murder. While ascending through a tunnel in the sky to the afterlife, Nick is pulled into the office of Mildred Proctor (Mary Louise-Parker), director of the Boston division of the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.), an agency that recruits deceased police officers to patrol the afterlife and capture “Deados”, spirits that failed to cross over and return to Earth as monstrous ghosts. Nick agrees to join the R.I.P.D. after Proctor explains that it would stave off a potentially negative final judgment for at least a century, and meets his new partner, Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), an ex-U.S. Marshal who lived in the 1800s. Nick and Roy return to Earth to attend Nick’s funeral, where Nick learns R.I.P.D. officers are assigned avatars, which is how humans perceive them. Nick’s is an elderly Chinese man, Jerry Chen (James Hong) and Roy’s is an attractive Russian woman, Opal Pavlenko (Marisa Miller). After a failed capture leads Nick to discover that the gold he buried is part of a plan to return the dead to Earth, he and Roy set about finding the deados responsible.

What do you mean, call me Dude?
What do you mean, call me Dude?

RIPD represents an honest-to-goodness lack of heart, emotion or even empathy for the audience watching. It’s a film purely wrapped up in its own self-indulgence, the kind of vapid, desperately frenetic school of film-making that destroyed Jonah Hex and ruined Wild Wild West. Look at me, the film screams, trying its damndest to get you interested, although a lite-weight script and a reliance on cool ideas ensures you simply cannot. Don’t look at this, because it’s not that great. The central problem is that other films have done it better – I mentioned Men in Black earlier, a far superior film that this one copies almost note for note in some parts. Probably not intentionally (cough) but you never know, right? The newbie MIB – ahem, sorry, RIPD Officer – teams up with the grizzled old Tommy Lee Jones…. ahem, again, sorry, I meant Jeff Bridges, to protect humanity from something we apparently have no inkling of. Of course, where aliens might have hidden in plain sight in Men in Black, in RIPD the dead do pretty much the same thing.

I don't care how many degrees of separation it might be, you're not doing that to my wife.
I don’t care how many degrees of separation it might be, you’re not doing that to my wife.

RIPD spends a fair amount of time covering off on its by-the-numbers plot development, giving Nick – Ryan Reynolds, who is somewhat restrained here, it must be said – the rundown on his new life as a dead person. Cue similar story points to Will Smith’s first “mission” as a Man In Black. However, Reynolds is no Will Smith, and his character has even less charisma than some of the corpses he’s forced to pursue around the streets of Boston. A tacit love-life with his wife, with whom he tries to communicate via his avatar, is clumsily handled, and the juxtaposition of having Jeff Bridge’s manly-man cowboy Roy appear to us as a super-hot chick is intended to bring some light laughs, but the lack of focus by Schwentke in his direction means the film meanders all over the place. Kevin Bacon’s eponymous crooked cop is as easy to spot as you can get, to the point where I don’t even think they bothered hiding it – perhaps had they tried to make Bacon’s Bobby less of a dick early on, it might have made the double-cross sting a little harder.

Protected by a couple of airbags.
Protected by a couple of airbags.

Whether you catch on to the ludicrous plot devices of having some weird golden talisman being able to bring back the dead (a point Roy makes abundantly clear in a nice rant to Mildred) or not, RIPD plays like a cliche-gone-mad end of the world flick, with giant wormholes, enormous property destruction, indestructible heroes and expendable Bad Guys, all wrapped up in one of the most aggravatingly ratchet-zoomed editing I’ve ever seen. I’m not one of these critics who despises modern film-making techniques, but they can be overused (like JJ Abrams’ lens-flare), and Robert Schwentke obliterates this film in gravity defying camera effects, crushing zooms and hyper-kinetic editing to the point of incomprehension. From the man who gave us the nicely filmed Time Traveler’s Wife, and even the competent-yet-lackluster R.E.D., RIPD feels like it was post-produced by a Playstation 3 chatroom. The film never lets up, barely pausing in its insistence to drive the narrative forward through edits and – frankly – sloppy visual effects.

It's me. And my Asian dad.
It’s me. And my Asian dad.

RIPD’s major failing is in these gangbusting effects. The film looks half finished, with more green-screen and CG work than the last Star Wars prequel by an order of magnitude. The deados are putrid, slobby and half rotting, yet they retain that incomplete digital sheen that looks like a rushed job down at ILM. The animation feels second-rate, the way Schwentke’s camera wooshes around and past them with constant velocity, and there’s an overabundance – nay, overkill – of digitization about what’s on the screen that feels like the kitchen sink might come flying out at you. RIPD has too much going on in it for one single film. It’s like they’ve gone for a thousand “money shots” in a single film, trying to overload the audience with WOW and ending up with WTF… So much stuff, so little coherence.

Sonny, your day just went from bad to downright loopy!
Sonny, your day just went from bad to downright loopy!

There’s little to recommend RIPD to most people, with the exception of Jeff Bridges’ scenery chewing performance as Roy. No doubt Bridges might have hoped this would become a signature character (in the same way Johnny Depp will forever by Captain Jack to a lot of folks) but he’s pinned his hopes on a film of such indeterminate quality and inordinately low-brow humor, I doubt he’ll revisit this one on his CV down the track. RIPD is the kind of film older children watch and dispose of, the kind of film you’d never bother with outside of finding some thing vaguely PG13 to entertain a bunch of brats while you go watch football in the other room. It’s definitely not the kind of film you sit down to enjoy, leastways. Bridges aside, RIPD is DOA.

3-Star

 

 

 

 

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Normally detesting these kinds of bios, Rodney’s keen love of film more often outclasses his ability to write convincingly about them.

Never blessed with a body worthy of a porn star, nor being the heir to a wealthy industrialists fortune, nor suffering the tragedy of having his parents murdered outside a Gotham theater, Rodney is, contrary to popular opinion, neither Ron Jeremy, JD Rockefeller, or Batman.

As a serious appreciator of film since 1996, Rodney’s love affair with the medium has continued with his online blog, Fernby Films, a facility allowing him to communicate with fellow cineasts in their mutual love of all things movie.