This past Summer, R.I.P.D. received poisonous word-of-mouth and was considered a box office bomb. But, it wasn’t enough to push me away from seeing it.
Call me a fool, but R.I.P.D. looked like it was up my alley. It looked like something I would want to see during some sunny doldrums. It looked like the right type of escapism that could be compared to the likes of Mystery Men.
Now, having watched R.I.P.D., I understand what those disgruntled movie goers are thinking. I don’t necessarily agree wholeheartedly and I certainly don’t think Robert Schwentke’s action-fantasy flick is one of the worst things I’ve seen this year, but R.I.P.D.‘s has it’s lacklustre priorities twisted, leading to the film shooting itself in the foot.
The good news is that Schwentke knows what kind of movie he wants to make, and it is the kind of movie I was looking for. It’s vibrant, imaginative, and doesn’t take itself too seriously. If I was eight or younger, I would eat this up.
That said, it’s far too determined to not resemble anything else. It’s easy for a film like R.I.P.D. to be aware of this. Many have compared the outline to Men in Black. While R.I.P.D. is about two dead officers – one being new to the job and the other a colourful veteran – who protect the Earth from fallen spirits disguised as grimy creatures, Schwentke’s movie could stand on its own. It sounds very close – and even looks undeniably similar – to Barry Sonnenfeld’s sci-fi capers, but R.I.P.D. strays away from that formula to follow crime movie clichés. It’s common territory, but there’s enough zest in its action that would’ve separated it from everything else.
However, R.I.P.D. does all it can to make its viewers believe its nothing like Men in Black. The story gets overwrought with a plot that involves stolen gold, and the chemistry between leads Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges clashes too often to believe these guys could ever form a buddy relationship. Whenever Bridges curmudgeonly gnaws on dialogue with an incomprehensible speech pattern, I wished I was watching a better variation of this performance in the Coen Brothers’ remake of True Grit.
The attempts at humour are limp and have trouble fitting in the complicated and accident prone screenplay written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. Gags involving the creatures’ intolerance to Indian food had me befuddled and scratching my head, as well as those jokes about Bridges’ obsession with women’s ankles. Who would find this funny?
Finally, when the film is huffing and puffing after trying to persuade movie goers that they are not watching a knock off of Men in Black, the viewers look right back and question why the film resembles Ghostbusters.
All the work Schwentke and his screenwriters have chiseled away at – including an epic battle where creatures are running rampid through the streets of Boston – ends up being counter-productive. It completely forgets that by driving the film away from a few reference points means that it could possibly end up emulating something completely different. In this case, a more memorable film and the most cherished sacred cow of comedic fantasies.
If R.I.P.D. hadn’t been so self-conscious and taken a breath, the film could’ve let its hair down and been its own adventure. There was a healthy dose of potential. It’s too bad it was squandered.