Review: R.I.P.D.

Editor’s Note: I’m already three reviews behind, so no way was I going to dilute my memory of Blackfish and The World’s End so I could see a movie whose own studio was already so convinced I’d hate it that they screened it the night before release on Comic-Con opening night. However, Evan punished himself, and sent me a lengthy email about the experience. I share it with you now, so that his suffering may not have been in vain.

Our friend Laremy’s review was pretty spot-on about how the movie didn’t really feel like a movie, but more like videogame cut scenes. It reminded me of Looper in that it’s super stylized in the beginning: lots of noodly Matrix Reloaded-style CGI, acrobatic camera work that aims to frame the scenes like comic book panels, I guess—but it abandons that after a few minutes. Then it commits pretty solidly to being the bologna to Scott Pilgrim‘s tenderloin. Spoilers ahead.

There is no tonal consistency. Jeff Bridges is goofy for the entire movie, which was great, but Ryan Reynolds (as the complicated-as-my-name character Nick) is convinced that Bridges is selfish, emotionally damaged, and wrong about everything even though we’ve seen no evidence of this. If anything, the narrative sides with Bridges and hangs Reynolds out dry like the weird movie-killing Canadian he is. Bridges is all “will you just shut up about being dead and have fun like this movie wants us to,” (he even cites real-life tragedies to give Nick some perspective) but Reynolds is hell-bent on separating himself from Bridges. This is because they are two different characters and the only way audiences can tell is if the characters are opposites and fight all the time. Maybe the fleet of screenwriters (there are five credited) broke off into warring tribes, passive aggressively contributing contradictory material to undermine the ideologies they didn’t like. “We begin this council of the Campy Humorists with the question: can you believe the Romantics wanted Nick’s motivation to be his wife?! Well F*CK THEM let’s do four pages of policeman’s honor garbage! Dunno if we’ll follow up on that but it’ll defs make the Romantics look like dicks. Wait, the Meta Fans want what?! See if the Blockbuster crew is up for an alliance, but take a spear just in case.”

I’d buy that. Hell, there are so many different pursued directions, I’d have no problem believing there were five different directors.

Or maybe they had one writer for each character, and they wrote full scripts from their assigned perspective, then smushed them together. Maybe on some external harddrive there’s like a twelve-hour, seven-volume Malickesque cut of the R.I.P.D. masterpiece. How else can the basic plot (Kevin Bacon is a disguised “deado” trying to evade detection by the RIPD while he collects gold to build a reverse portal to the afterlife) ignore big deal questions like: Why does Kevin Bacon give Reynolds any gold in the first place? Why does he not consider the possibility that Reynolds would be in the RIPD after he died?

And yes of course, the movie is a lot like Men In Black, with the hiding-in-plain-sight headquarters entrance, schizoid criminals, similar protagonists and story, etc. etc.

Here’s some notes I took while farting as much as I could at the guy who sat next to me (back row, corner seat) in a theater of 25 people:

  • His wife calls herself a “French girl” so we can definitely know her accent is French. It is my understanding that all foreigners introduce themselves in this manner.
  • Why are they worried about money if they live in the “After” part of an anti-depressant commercial? It must suck being beautiful, living in a nice house in a major city, waking up to your wife wearing only underwear and the morning sunshine.
  • Jeff Bridges is introduced by calling Ryan Reynolds “rookie” a million times and identifying himself as a ‘one-man operation.’ Then he tells his boss not to be a cliché when she’s about to say “I’ll have your ass.”
  • The scene where Jeff Bridges sloppily eats Indian food to provoke a deado: YES, please. On the whole, the best part of the movie is Jeff Bridges not giving a fuuuuuuuuck for 90 minutes.
  • Jeff Bridges has weirdly inconsistent anachronistic knowledge. He doesn’t know how cops talk but makes a joke about erasing porn from laptops. He does a standoff to remind us that he is True Grit.
  • They introduce the device that reverses the portal to the afterlife and Jeff Bridges is all like “WHY WOULD ANYONE MAKE THIS DUMB DEVICE IF ALL IT DOES IS F*CK THINGS UP? SEEMS KIND OF ARBITRARY, AMIRITE?” and then the movie just doesn’t give an answer. Its response is mysteriously firing Bridges and Reynolds, so my initial thought was that the RIPD was all corrupt, conspiring with evil deados. Turns out that’s not true, the movie is just too lazy to follow up on its own genuinely interesting meta-curiosity.
  • The scene immediately following Reynolds and Bridges’ break-up is them getting back together. The space between represents how much we cared.
  • Kevin Bacon is captured, and pulls the all-part-of-the-plan thing. He literally says “I wanted to be here all along.” Put Kevin Bacon in a room with strangers and he can telepathically tell them his plan. They’ll cooperate, don’t worry.
  • “Soul stank.” What is soul stank? WHAT IS SOUL STANK?
  • It sounds like everyone is dubbed. Why is Kevin Bacon’s head split open? I thought deado form was supposed to be a visual pun on their crimes? It’s not like he knew too much, because he overlooked a lot of things.
  • Ryan Reynolds says to his wife “you gotta live your life without me” even though she just right then died. I mean, he is only able to talk to her because she died, is now dead, and thus unable to Live Life with or without any people or accessories.

Hopefully the comic books are better.