Published Oct 30, 2013Though consistently fun, in a mentally passive, crowd-pleasing way, this Men In Black meets Dead Like Me rip-off/hybrid sank like a stone at the box office. Chalk it up to a lack of zombies — those enduring monsters of the cultural moment can sell even a muddled mess like World War Z. Red director Robert Schwentke hasn't made a rousing adventure as unfairly maligned as last year's far-better-than-they're-given-credit-for mega-bombs John Carter and Battleship, but R.I.P.D. is a hell of a lot more entertaning than the exceptionally bland Men In Black III.
As you may have noticed, with a film this derivative, it's nigh impossible not to be mind-humped by comparisons at every turn. Spinning the MIB formula to the nether realm of the story trope dial, R.I.P.D. follows the induction of a murdered cop into the Rest In Peace Department. These law enforcers of the afterlife are tasked with running down body squatters: souls that occupy physical space against the wishes of a higher order. It's not much subtler than the busting of literal illegal aliens. Ryan Reynolds plays Nick, the newest member of this elite police force beyond the grave. His kooky seasoned partner is old school gunslinger Roy (Jeff Bridges). Under the smirking and sometimes genuinely odd guidance of Proctor (Mary-Louis Parker), the duo execute mediocre CGI monstrosities while Nick tries to figure out why his long-time partner (Kevin Bacon) sent him to purgatory with a gunpowder smooch to the brain.
The plot is typical heroes saving the day from bad guys that just want to be bad, but three things make R.I.P.D. way more fun than it has any right to be: the dynamic between Reynolds and Bridges; Schwentke's exuberant ingenuity behind the camera; and a healthy smattering of randomness. From the monster detection device of Indian food (it's the cumin) to the mildly amusing usage of unlikely real world avatars for our undead lawmen (Nick is an elderly Chinese man and Roy is a busty blonde), these quirks give the film enough personality to lament its poor financial fate — a sequel could very well have been a massive improvement.
Most of the special features concern Schwentke's audacious knack for engineering visually stimulating cinematography tricks. "Filming the Other Side," "Walking Among Us" and "Anatomy of a Shootout" all deal heavily in these impressive technical stunts, using a combination of behind-the-scenes footage and cast and crew interviews. The same format is applied on a wider scale to "Transferring R.I.P.D,," the obligatory but wholly entertaining "Making Of." Credit for the amusement is due in no small part to the relentless mugging of Jeff Bridges, Kevin Bacon and Ryan Reynolds, more of which can be seen in a gag reel and "Nick's New Avatars," a bunch of variations on the movie's final joke.
"Motion Comics: Bringing the Avatars to Life" is pointless, simply presenting scenes from the movie in motion comic form, with the characters' shells changed. Of more interest, especially to people invested in the development process, is two alternate openings, the second of which is a refinement of the first (why anyone would cut a scene that takes place at a location called Ting Ting's Fish Gift is beyond me), and a collection of deleted scenes made far funnier than they would be otherwise by the inclusion of unfinished special effects. This whole package will likely find many viewers on home video that'll appreciate it as well-executed cinematic comfort food. (Universal)