Review: R.I.P.D. Is C.R.A.P.

Jason Gorber, Featured Critic
Alas, it comes the time in every summer when a high-concept, sci-fi themed comedy erupts on our screens in order to try to take our ticket money away from our stingy pockets. Some, like Back To The Future or Men In Black, worked to a certain extent. Others, like the rest of the mens in black [sic], not so much.

So it's mildly disheartening to report that, yes, R.I.P.D. is exactly as bad as you expected it to be from the trailer. For a film that uses the stench of death as a major plot point (allusions to "Bacon gone bad" being a core metaphor), it's hard not to be snarky about the work. And thus, despite at least some modicum of restraint, I shall be snarky.

The title refers to the "Rest In Piece Department", a heavenly police force for those seeking to recapture the dead that have escaped and are living on earth. When this is spelled out in the film, there's a sarcastic comment about being "clever". Alas, this moment of self-awareness from the script was quickly abandoned in favour of a rote version of the film that this one-note concept inevitably leads to.

But first, the parts that almost work: Director Robert Schwentke, who previously did the passable RED, has once again cast Mary-Louise Parker. She's the best part of this film, and between this and the role she handles in RED 2 (also landing this week), she's almost managing to single-handedly keep her respective films afloat. Schwentke isn't quite as deft this time with shooting action, but at least he kept a central part of his previous cast.

I admit to enjoying a few moments of levity with Jeff Bridges doing a mashup of "The Dude" and the Dude from True Grit, mostly in the form of his crotch-airing posture while driving a 70s sedan. The jokes, such as there are, are few and far between, but Bridges at least seems committed to the bit.

Kevin Bacon, on the other hand, seems like he's in another movie. Yet it's the star Ryan Reynolds who does the anti-Parker -- if she's the bright light in two films opening this week, when combined with Turbo Reynolds proves to be the dead weight in both. He's mugging for the camera, doe-eyed, through much of it, and simply can't be considered leading man material even in this kind of film. There's a tedium to the way he plays things that's frankly grating after a while, and save for a pretty-boy face, I'm at a loss as to why he's still starring in films.

The story is as silly as you probably can guess, but the almost inexcusably bad character animation, combined with gimmicky 3D and an unenthusiastic palette, makes the film feel cheap, despite what I'm assuming to be a relatively lavish nine-figure budget. Given the central plot device, this thing has bomb written all over it, and I'm not sure that audiences will stomach the banter for more than a few moments.

Then again, I've been surprised before. There might really be those craving for some Freaky Friday-meets-Heaven Can Wait via Ghostbusters fun, and I wish them luck with this work. For me, it was an exercise in will to stay awake throughout, with a sweltering theatre during a local heat wave providing little respite, crafting a muggy, infernal environment in which to stomach this so-called "film".

So, despite a charming Ms. Parker and her spunky white boots masking her ankles, it's hard to see R.I.P.D. as anything more than C.R.A.P.
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  • ThalamusNexus

    I found the movie entertaining

  • Cedric Chou Ya-Li

    "...save for a pretty-boy face, I'm at a loss as to why he's still starring in films."
    I don't know what the film's worth, and intend to find out... when the thing comes out on DVD. But that personal attack on Ryan Reynolds is BAD film criticism - hell, it's not film criticism at all actually! I sometimes agree with you, Jason, and sometimes I don't regarding the movies you review. But that note on RR is tabloid crap, in my opinion, and it's below you.

  • It's a professional, not personal "attack" on RR - my point is that he's a pretty terrible actor, even in mixed genre crap like this film, and out of pure conjecture I'm assuming that there are those that find him attractive, and this is why he still gets work. TURBO demonstrates that divorced from his pin-up boy image, his voice is flat and free from any particular type of charisma, especially when contrasted with the likes of Giamatti as his much more emotive brother. In RIPD, he had a chance to at least embrace his mad character, but his performance is flat and uninteresting.

    That said, this is quite apart from any Tabloid sensationalism - I have no idea about any of his personal proclivities, and am entirely focused on what we're getting onscreen. He comes across as a male bimbo, alas, and while part of that is meant to be an element of the character he's portraying, his execution lacks the wry, sardonic nature that's on paper. There's a couple moments where it comes close to working, but they're few and far between, leading one to ask, I think rationally, why this guy still has a career doing this sort of stuff.

    If you can point to a RR performance of astonishing depth and presence that I've somehow missed, I'd be more than happy to revise my opinion. Check out Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling, two other "pretty boy" faces that have frankly done astonishing work over the last few years, greatly expanding their reach while doing a slew of different styles of film. Mr. Reynolds, I'd suggest, isn't in that league, and the question, if both rhetorical and provocative, is meant to at least broach the concern that this guy is making terrible film after terrible film.

    Still, thanks for reading. I once again wish I got as much response for the films I champion rather than the ones I've got to suffer through, but that does seem to the nature of this gig.

  • Cedric Chou Ya-Li

    OK Jason, so here are my thoughts, and why I still think what you wrote about RR is NOT as “professional” as you seem to think it is – please bear in mind that English is not my mother tongue, so I expect you’ll forgive me and still get my point.

    Quickly, before I start, I used to be a film critic myself in a previous life, back when I was living in France, and you seem to be victim of a very common mistake many people in the job make, which is to mix your opinion with fact.

    Of course, you’ll reply that having an opinion is your “job” as well as treating it as fact in order to make a point out of your views. Well, it’s only true as far as you’re reviewing a film (or a piece of music, or anything that was crafted and thus open for review). What you can't take as fact, though, is when you start giving your opinion on (or reviewing) a person made of flesh and blood, because then you are reviewing the “craft” of Mr and Mrs Reynolds! And this is exactly what you do when you say “he comes across as a male bimbo”, and this is precisely what I call a “personal attack” and “tabloid crap.” Imagine for a minute how Mr and Mrs Gorber would feel if I was to write about you: “with his face made for radio, his writing is just as good as he looks, thus he comes across as a pompous, arrogant prick”, now that would be pretty personal and yet I could argue I was really reviewing your writing only. Note that I gave this example just as that, and example, and as I’ve said before, I have nothing but fond feelings for you, which is why I’m an avid reader of yours.

    Back to RR and his acting skills. I think ever since “Van Wilder”, he’s been surfing on his good looks for better or worse, though most of the time he also showed some auto derision about it, the pinnacle of it being his part in “Paper Man” . Besides that, I haven’t see “The Nines” but have only heard good things about it. I also happen to think he stood his ground with honors in front of Denzel Washington in “Safe House”. And finally, in “Buried”, he kept me on the edge of my seat though he was trapped in a box for the whole running time of the movie. Oh, and I thought he made an excellent pair with Sandra Bullock in “The Proposal” as the man definitely has comedy chops, or so I think.

    So, there you go: I’m not calling him the next Al Pacino, or Robert De Niro, or James Dean, or whoever for that matter – but as much as I respect and enjoy seeing them on screen, Bradley Cooper and Ryan Gosling aren’t either.

    That being said, I don’t really care about Ryan Reynolds more than that – I don’t think about him when I’m going to bed at night – so I was really only pointing out that I usually appreciate your reviews, but that PERSONAL remark on that guy was nothing but a personal opinion on his personal self, and not worthy of the film critic I think you are.

    Finally, regarding the fact that you get more response on the films you hate than on the ones you champion, you know, trains that arrive on time don’t make headlines ;)

  • Let me be the first to suggest your false modesty regarding your use of English should surely be made in jest, for your prose is at least equal to that of this native speaker, if not demonstrably being executed with more dexterity than I am able to muster.

    Secondly, your point is taken, I may have been slightly florid in my rhetoric, but my point was to call out this performance (and the choices he makes, both in terms of roles and the choices within these roles) into question. I'm not with you on THE NINES, or SAFE HOUSE, or even THE PROPOSAL at all, and fear they buttress my argument more than yours. I've not seen BURIED, I should admit, perhaps unfairly due to adoring 127 HOURS so very much, the other guy-in-trouble film that played TIFF that year.

    I'd like to suggest that RR is perhaps capable of astonishing me with a future performance, the way that Cooper and Gosling managed to, and that I'm challenging to the choices he's made to date, rather than something fundamental to his DNA. My suggestion was that being pretty doesn't make him incapable of great art, or even simply good entertainment, but that his track record of pretty miserable performances and career choices isn't one to applaud. There was perhaps more nuance in what I was cheekily saying than you give me credit for, but at the same time I do see (and agree) with the basis of your argument, and shall try to be more precise in the future.

  • Cedric Chou Ya-Li

    Dear Jason, I command you for your fair response, and will only add that it's been a real pleasure jousting with you on this - somewhat futile - matter.

    P.S.: Your intro/1st paragraph cracks me up!

  • David

    For what it was I thought it was kinda fun...Bridges was great. The animated short was pretty badass, they should've just made that a feature and go straight to dvd.

  • cuttermaran

    Oh well, it's a Gorber review....

  • Cause for celebration, no?

  • doh!

    why would you guys even review RIPD?? Was there any doubt anywhere on this planet that RIPD would not completely suck?

  • Simon de Bruyn

    "worked to a certain extent"??? Back to the Future is the greatest movie of all time!

  • Simon Panneton

    Yeah I don't know what that's about. I think he only meant that Men in Black works to a certain extent. If he also meant Back to the Future then he's some kind of wrong person...

  • No reason I can't be "some kind of wrong person" AND someone that likes (but doesn't entirely love) BACK TO THE FUTURE.

    We all can agree, however, that R.I.P.D. is no BTTF. Hell, it's not even a BTTF3.

  • Simon Panneton

    You're perfectly allowed to not entirely love bttf, my friend, that's about taste. The issue here is saying that it doesn't entirely work, which is a different thing. Bttf has one of the best sci-fi scripts out there. It's fucking flawless. It sets up great time travel rules with economy of storytelling, clearity and no shortage of wit, and then within those rules it weaves a fantastic comedy with clearly defined arcs and more than a few iconic characters. Also the last twenty minutes up the tension and suspense to near unbearable levels.
    It works entirely, but maybe it's not your cup of tea.

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