R.I.P.D (3D)

Universal Pictures
What it's about:

After being murdered by his partner, a dirty cop gets a second chance to make amends and take revenge as he joins the Rest In Peace Department, a post-mortem law enforcement agency tasked with stopping the dead from wreaking havoc on the living.

What we thought:

R.I.P.D, the 674th comic book movie to be released this year, looks, at the outset, to have plenty going for it. It has a good director, a cast that ranges from solid (Ryan Reynolds) to excellent (Jeff Bridges, Mary-Louise Parker) and a really neat high-concept premise.

Unfortunately, though it's nowhere near the turkey that most critics have deemed it to be, it squanders most of its promise, even as it constantly hints towards better movies and its own underlying potential.

It's especially irritating that the film could so easily be better because its major failures are very easily identifiable as coming from two rather crucial areas: it's effects and its money.

In terms of the former, R.I.P.D relies almost entirely on CGI, but it looks like the kind of CGI that one would normally find in a very cheap video game or in a movie from when the technology was still in its infancy. The action scenes have no sense of physicality whatsoever and the undead creatures are entirely lacking in physical presence or believability.

CG characters are often problematic but we haven't seen CGI creations this shoddy since at least the terrible digi-zombies of I Am Legend. Regardless of the films other problems, it would have been a hundred times better had they relied on good prosthetic and make up work and on physical stunts.

Now, considering how bad the effects are, one can assume that R.I.P.D didn't exactly have a mega-budget, but it had just enough money thrown at it to completely and utterly undermine everything that could have and should have worked about the film. It has a premise that would be a perfect fit for the quirky, indie aesthetic of Scott Pilgrim or Kick Ass but someone clearly wanted the film to go head to head with the bigger comic book movies, which is why we get stupid CGI creatures when we should have Evil-Dead-like zombies and an inane plot about protecting the world from a supervillain who wants to destroy it, when we really should be getting something far smaller and more intimate.

R.I.P.D has, in its very DNA, echoes of Men in Black, Ghostbusters and Dead Like Me (remember that show?) but it has every last inch of originality squeezed out of it by the absurdly stupid desire to turn something that could have been fun and weird and small scale into yet another overblown, yet underdeveloped blockbuster. I haven't read the Dark Horse comic book but it's hard to believe that it was anywhere near this generic.

All of this though, becomes especially dispiriting when you realise how much of the little details in the film itself are already alive and present and are suffocated by a film that doesn't deserve them. This is most notable every time that Mary Louise Parker shows up on screen as this deadpan, gloriously strange boss/liaison type figure and her first meeting with our recently dead hero is one of the film's few real highlights.

There's also, of course, the ever-cool Jeff Bridges as a long-deceased wild west sheriff who is partnered with Reynold's modern day cop and, while you get the sense that it's the off kilter nature of the team up that's supposed to be the source of most of the film's laughs, most of the comedy burden does land on Bridges and, to be fair, even if he is just playing a whackier version of his True Grit character, he is solidly funny.

R.I.P.D isn't quite the disaster that so many have painted it as and its smaller pleasures means it's probably worth checking out on TV when you don't have anything else going on, but with so much going for it, it really sucks to see just how quickly its promise was eaten up by an indulgent budget and a lack of any real personality.
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