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R.I.P.D. is better than some say, but not nearly as funny as you probably think it will be
You know that phenomenon where you go to see a movie only to find out that, not only have all the best parts already been put in the trailer, but there were great elements in the trailer that aren't even in the movie you just watched?
That's sort of the case with R.I.P.D.
That isn't to say that there aren't moments that you can still enjoy in the movie. There's a sort of irreverent charm to the movie that does help it carry itself across a few rough patches. But if you're expecting this to be Men In Black with dead people, you'll be quite let down.
The movie just isn't as funny as it could and should have been. I'll get into where I think they went wrong later.
But first, the story
As the story starts (after a brief flash forward into more of the meat of the plot) we find Nick (Ryan Reynolds), a cop, burying something in his back yard and planting an orange tree for his wife in the middle of the night. If you're already intrigued by that sentence, then you are easily intrigued. And if you assume that this midnight horticulture will never come up again, you're watching the wrong movie my friend.
The next day, after saying a long goodbye to his wife, Julia (Stephanie Szostak), he heads to work where he and his partner, Hayes (Kevin Bacon), have a heart to heart about some gold that they took from the scene of a drug bust.
Ah! See? See? Now if you think that is the last we'll ever hear of this mysterious gold, seriously, you're watching the wrong movie my friend. I hear they're showing The Smurfs 2 down the hallway. Maybe that'd be more your speed?
Anyway, the squad is rushed to a bust where things go wrong for our hero. In case you forgot who our hero was, it's Ryan Reynolds, and seriously, go watch Smurfs 2! Out!
Are they gone?
Okay, anyway, Nick, as you can guess from the trailers, dies, is vacu-sucked up into a glowing cloud, and suddenly finds himself at the pearly white interrogation room. He's grilled and given the low-down by the lovely-but-kinda-creepy-faced Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker). He's being given the chance to work off some of the judgement coming his way by signing up for a hundred-year tour of duty at R.I.P.D.—the Rest In Peace Department. (seriously? That's what you're going with?)
Upon taking the offer, Nick is partnered up with the surly and cantankerous Roy (Jeff Bridges), an old-west lawman from the 1800's.
They have adventures, fight and capture some "deados" who had died but refused to leave Earth. There's whimsy, there's excitement, there's danger, but there's not a whole lot of serious laughs.
Dot dot dot
Now, when I say that there aren't a whole lot of laughs, that is both true and not necessarily a bad thing. If they were going for "fun" rather than "funny", it wouldn't be a problem. However, there are clearly times where things definitely feel like they're meant to be much funnier than they are.
And most of that revolves around the deados.
Since the most obvious cinematic comparison would be with Men In Black, let's use that as an example. In Men In Black, they did a good job of making the aliens different, weird, and funny. The scene where Tommy Lee Jones is interviewing an alien who is trying to leave town while Will Smith is thrown about like a rag doll by a pregnant tentacle in the background does a great job of mixing the mundane and the outlandish to make a pretty funny scene.
Now, there are small moments where R.I.P.D. is able to achieve a small shadow of that kind of juxtaposition, but I just don't find the deados that interesting to look at. They've taken the human form and distorted it, making the mouth too big, or with extra fingers or hands, or maybe they're extremely fat and can walk on walls, doing whatever a very obese spider can. But for the most part, I just didn't find them that interesting to look at. And when much of your humor is based on those characters, maybe you should spend a little more effort in making them distinct and interesting.
One deado that I thought looked particularly interesting in the trailer is only barely in the movie. Huh?
Beyond that, however, there's an irreverent fun to the movie. There are frequent references to what happened to Roy's body after he died oh so long ago, and one of those jokes goes a bit too far for my taste, but that irreverent attitude does carry a charm of its own.
But that will only take the movie so far.
One joke that I think works well enough at times is the fact that our heroes are seen as completely different people to everyone on earth, including deados. This prevents them from re-entering their old lives when they're sent back. Nick is frustrated that his avatar is an old Chinese man (James Hong) while Roy's avatar is a beautiful, thin blonde (Marisa Miller).
For me, one of the best parts of that joke happens when a man, seeing Roy's beautiful avatar, approaches him and offers him a part in a music video. When Roy responds, he has to pretend to be that hot woman and it's pretty funny to hear what comes out of mister Bridges' mouth. But on the whole, the avatar joke could be used to a bit more comedic effect.
All that being said, it's an enjoyable enough movie. There are fun action sequences and the rapport between Reynolds and Bridges should get a few chuckles out of you. If you go into the movie knowing that it may not be as riotously funny as the trailer makes it appear, you should be able to enjoy yourself well enough.
(Mild spoiler alert for this next paragraph)
It's a little odd, however, that Kevin Bacon really doesn't feature that much in the trailers and promotional material. But maybe they were trying to avoid certain assumptions. I mean, no offense, but when was the last time you've seen Kevin Bacon and not thought to yourself, "oh man, that guy's evil"?
But what do you think of the movie?
For me, this one gets a strong 5 / 10, almost a weak 6. I could see myself grabbing it out of a $5 DVD bin at the store without much hesitation, but since they are clearly trying to be much funnier than they end up, that pulls the overall rating down. But a 5 out of 10 is still roughly a C rating, so it's okay if it's the kind of movie you want to see. You just have to see it to know if it's the kind of movie you wanted to have seen.
R.I.P.D. is rated PG-13 for sci-fi/fantasy action/violence, a bit of sensuality and language, including reference to sexual activity.