While it's certainly true that superheroes are enjoying a huge era at the multiplexes these days, that doesn't mean that all comic books need (or even deserve) to become movies. In the comic book world, Dark Horse makes some pretty great graphic literature. but their film division is a mixed bag at best: Hellboy, Mystery Men, Barb Wire, Timecop, 300, Virus (yes, that one), and the nearly unwatchable Alien vs. Predator films. Some good, a lot of bad.
But as long as Marvel and DC are raking in huge bucks, we'll always have a few producers willing to adapt any graphic novel for the big screen -- whether or not the film is actually any good. Such is the case with the truly woeful R.I.P.D.
As a guy who prides himself on being able to identify the legitimate craft and honest artistry in "silly genre" films like Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, I certainly walked into R.I.P.D. with a good attitude: the movie is about two ghost cops who do battle against undead scum on behalf of heaven. Plus the heroes are played by Ryan Reynolds and the always adorable Jeff Bridges, the villain is Kevin Bacon, and the lady in charge of everything is Mary-Louise Parker. Throw in a kooky sense of humor and a few action scenes and we're already halfway to a good movie, right?
That's what I thought.
Aside from some half-decent CGI work and some legitimately lovely Boston cinematography, there's nothing for me to pull out of my "good news" bag. R.I.P.D. feels like it was made entirely by computers, truth be told, and no amount of tongue-in-cheek wackiness will make a viewer forgive the tiresome plot, the confused narrative, the wheezing banter between the two leads. the sadly perfunctory and wholly unnecessary attempt at "actual emotion" in a movie that's about as heartfelt as a McDonald's Value Meal, and the look on all the actors' faces that all but screams "Gimme my check and get me outta this movie."
This movie's idea of clever is that, while our lead ghosts look like Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds to us, they actually look like a hot blonde and a creepy old man to everyone else. This leads to some wackiness when our villain mistakes the male hero for a wo... no, I don't want to spoil it. Some of you have never seen a movie or a TV show, ever. When the movie isn't focused on its garish geysers of computer graphics, it's a showcase for the anti-chemistry between Reynolds and Bridges. They never once seem to be working in the same film.
Since the movie is based on a comic book, there are a few stray nuggets of cleverness here and there. The R.I.P.D., for example, is composed of crime-fighters from various eras, which is why Jeff Bridges plays an Old West sheriff and why their office is filled with cops of various shapes, sizes, and time periods. Novel in a comic book, certainly, but here's it's just empty window dressing for a concept, style, and presentation that feels like the unholy combination of Dead Heat (1988), Ghost (1990), Ghostbusters (1984), and (dear lord) Cowboys and Aliens. It's not that the R.I.P.D. source material has no potential; it's that this movie is terribly made from stem to stern.
Director Robert Schwentke (Red, Flightplan) does seem to have a little zing where action sequences are concerned, but those moments fly by so quickly and all that remains is a bunch of hard-working actors forced to ejaculate the stupidest nonsense imaginable, and don't even get me started on how virtually every scene is punctuated with "drag & drop" exposition yammering. You can't even see the actors' mouths on most of the "plot stuff," and that means R.I.P.D. was probably re-cut 19 times before the actors were tossed into a booth to help make sense of the plot with dialogue like "So that's why the demons need the gold for their ceremony that we talked about in the last three scenes!" (I'm paraphrasing.) There's sloppy, there's messy, and then there's amateurish. R.I.P.D. is all three.
From its eyesore character design to its oddly crude and smarmy screenplay, R.I.P.D. is the worst sort of "slap it together because some geeks recognize the title" film production. The flick has a few moments of stray weirdness that hint of what the movie might have been, but unfortunately the final version of R.I.P.D. is a stunningly lazy and patently unlikable film. I'm not even sure who the intended audience would be, truth be told.