When a flick is released that, of a better term, a bomb, members of the audience give in to the tendency to trash the movie, director and some of this judgmental cadre know little about the intricacies of filmmaking and even less about life. The case study considered here is ‘, ‘R.I.P.D.’ although similar observations and conclusions can be applied to many flicks. What the naïve members of the audience may not realize is filmmaking is not only a business and profession to many involved it is a craft concerned with artistic expression. As is the case with most artists and craftsmen they are highly motivated to continue performing. No one has ever managed to do their jobs at the top of their potential each and every time. We all have off days and jobs that do little to advance our career but we take them to avoid having our momentum stalled. I’ve always help to the believe that this is at least partially involved with why we consistently find actors of formidable abilities in movies that are box office flops and critical targets. Even a cursory examination of the credits in this movie will aptly demonstrate the being made here. Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Mary-Louise Parker and Kevin Bacon are each well respected actors who have demonstrated their finely honed talents in many projects over decades of entertaining their fans. They have had numerous hits and their fair share of misses and ‘R.I.P.D.’ is undoubtedly residing in the latter category.
Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) are partners in the Boston Police Department albeit not the most stellar examples of Boston’s finest. When they on a drug bust the come across a chest full of gold they appropriate it for themselves. Nick immediately buries his share in his back yard as a retirement nest egg for him and his wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak). The younger officer is struck by a strong wave of conscience he informs Bobby he intends to turn return the gold. This doesn’t sit well with the senior partner who has other ideas for the ill-gotten gain. Soon afterwards during a convenient shoot out Nick is murdered by Bobby framing one of the criminals. Nick is surrealistically pulled through a tunnel towards the afterlife winding up in the office of Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) who introduces herself as the Boston division of the Rest in Peace Department (R.I.P.D.). It is her job to recruiting dead police officers for her division. The mandate of ’R.I.P.D.’ is the apprehension of spirits refusing to cross over to their judgment and return to earth ad demonic entities called Deados. In return Nick’s judgment would be postponed a century giving him time to rectify matters. After agreeing Nick is partnered with Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), a United States Marshall from the nineteenth century.
The first order of business is to return to earth and have Nick view his own funeral. One of the conditions of working for R.I.P.D.’ is they cannot be seen in their own forms. They have to use avatars, human guises to move about. Fans of HBO’s classic dark comedy, ‘Dead like me’ will readily recognize this plot contrivance and keep in mind this was a familiar dodge well before that. Nick is an elderly Chinese man, Jerry Chen (James Hong) while Roy is in the guise of a beautiful Russian woman, Russian woman, Opal Pavlenko (Stephanie Szostak). It should come as absolutely no surprise that Nick is unable to contact his widow; some rules for this kind of situation are rather immutable after all. The first case brings them to a suspect, Stanley Nawlicki (Robert Knepper) who is soon shot dead during his attempted escape. Binding life and after life together the crook has gold coins in his possession from the same stash Nick and Bobby purloined. Tracing the gold back the supernatural sleuths meet with dealer, Elliot (Mike O'Malley) who had been engaged to facilitate the exchange of hot coins for cool cash. In turn this leads them directly to Booby Hayes. Not only is Bobby fencing the lot but in the process of working Julia he convinces her Nick was dirty. The usual tropes found in most police caper flicks are resurrected here but with little to distinguish this movie from other, livelier variation. You might think to yourself that this is the point where a mortal cop would be taken off the case by his boss but doggedly refuses to let go of it. You would be correct. Procter pull the new partners off the assignment but despite risk of a summary, deleterious judgment he sticks to it.
The film is cliché and predictable, bordering on the pedantic but you really shouldn’t hold it too much against the cast. They did their level best with what they had although Mr. Reynolds might consider a change in management and perhaps return to physical humor were he really shines. Just as a reminder check out ‘Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place’ where Reynolds gets to trade comic quips with Nathan Fillion number of years ago. This is a talented cast but as previously mentioned occasionally the elements just fail to mesh and the film tanks. The one thing that does work in its favor is no one involved seems to be deluded in any way. I can’t see anyone on a press junket extoling the production of this movie. It was made as an old fashion cheesy flick and in that regard it managed to fill a couple of hours. It is in 3D but even the still relatively novel illusion of depth cannot add substance to this ethereal movie. Occasionally resurrection is not the way to go and there is a case to be made that Nick might want to stay dead considering the alternative. Just remember every you do at work is great; stars can have an off day too and this is a prime example that even the best batter can strike out.
2 Alternate Openings