This review was first published on Steven’s website Popcornaddiction.com. You’ve only got yourself to blame if you don’t visit it.
When Boston detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) is murdered by his colleague and friend Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), he finds himself plucked from the beyond by Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) and recruited into the Rest In Peace Department (R.I.P.D.) for the duration of his purgatory. Paired with an ex-marshal from the 1800s called Roy Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges), Walker is tasked with finding and apprehending Deados, or spirits that have escaped judgement by hiding on Earth. When he finds that the Deados are stockpiling golden artifacts bearing a striking resemblance to objects confiscated by he and Hayes, Walker begins to think that there might be more to his old partner than he first thought, and starts to worry for the safety of his wife (Stephanie Szostak).
A certified box office disaster, R.I.P.D. recouped only ten percent of its $130 million budget on its opening weekend in the States. It was simultaneously savaged by critics who likened it to Jonah Hex and accused of ripping off Men In Black. While R.I.P.D. is certainly undemanding and generic, however, it is also weird and plucky enough to deserve better from audiences and critics alike. Director Robert Schwentke is all but invisible in the finished film, but he still manages to bring the same offbeat enthusiasm to the project that he did with his previous effort, fellow comic-book adaptation and acronym RED.
This idiosyncrasy is personified by Mary-Louise Parker, who also starred in RED (along with its superior 2013 sequel). As soon as Walker arrives in the Proctor’s office, the actress works her magic on the film and almost immediately elevates it beyond the waste of time the reviews have tried to paint it as. The R.I.P.D. itself is a joy to behold, with the floor littered with assorted officers from throughout the ages, each paying their dues before his or her inevitable judgement. Walker, meanwhile, may be blandly written, but Reynolds brings his usual charisma to the character and just about manages to keep him interesting, while Bridges reprises his role from True Grit, only this time to (intentionally) comic effect.
On Earth the film is slightly less imaginative, but still boasts enough in the way of laughs to keep things ticking along. A gag involving Nick and Roy’s Earthly avatars (a small Chinese man and a blonde bombshell respectively) is overused but always amusing, pushing the ridiculousness of certain scenes to the extreme as Walker’s double – Grandpa Jerry Chen – confronts walking corpses with a cocked banana. The transformations are also pleasingly gruesome, or at least as gruesome as the 12A rating will allow, with the final battle employing an army of some of the most deranged individuals you will see all year. It’s stupid, preposterous and obviously CGI, but for the most part it’s also pretty entertaining.
A passable action comedy that sparks to life whenever Mary-Louise Parker is onscreen, R.I.P.D. perhaps benefits from the lowered expectations that come hand-in-hand with financial failure and critical Crucifixion. It mightn’t be a future franchise, but it can at least rest in peace.