Regrettably, Robert Schwentke’s action comedy RIPD is not about the Rhode Island Police Department. That concept would have been much more engaging than the actual basis for this mediocre movie written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi.
So what do the film’s titular initials stand for? They’re the name of a covert law enforcement unit called the “Rest In Peace Department,” comprised of cops who die in the line of duty. Disguised as harmless civilians, these officers walk the Earth again for a unique purpose: to capture rogue spirits and bring them to the other side.
The RIPD’s newest recruit is Nick (Ryan Reynolds) a cop gunned down during a drug bust. Since Nick has done some things he’s not proud of, he’s offered the position to make spiritual amends. Of course, this greenhorn is partnered with a grumpy veteran lawman from the 1800s named Roy (Jeff Bridges). Roy is a loner with zero interest in training a partner, which is just fine, because Nick thinks that he’s too good for Roy’s help anyway. After a series of humorous scuffles however, they realize that they’ll need to cooperate to stop a villain (Kevin Bacon) from bringing about the end of days.
Instead of being creative with an amusing premise, the filmmakers for RIPD disappoint by lazily ripping off Men in Black and Ghostbusters. The secret supernatural crime fighting organization piece as well as the mismatched partners is totally MiB. Roy is even Southern and hard to understand just like Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Plus, their misadventures in capturing ghosts and the apocalyptic showdown at the end borrow heavily from Ghostbusters. That said, it’s too bad that the humor in RIPD doesn’t come close to the hilarity of either picture.
Unfortunately this movie’s few attempts to innovate aren’t much better. Schwentke tries to place his camera at weird angles and twist it upside down during a couple chases, which only distracts you from the action. The slow-mo sequences look okay in 3D, but the only time the extra dimension feels truly worthwhile is when you wish it wouldn’t. Characters spitting chunks of food in your face isn’t particularly enjoyable or appetizing.
At least Jeff Bridges rewards viewers by playing gruff, grizzled cowboys like Roy with great gusto. The enthusiasm with which he portrays his character in RIPD is eerily similar to his jovial embodiment of the trigger-happy lawman Rooster Cogburn in 2010’s True Grit. Roy is entertaining because he’s more perverse than you’d expect, yet strangely sensitive. As a character he can be annoying though, due to how difficult he is to comprehend. His sometimes unintelligible voice sounds like Foghorn Leghorn with a frog in his throat.
Thankfully, Bridges has an odd chemistry with Reynolds that’s comedically decent. Although their quips won’t knock your socks off, they’ll still get you chuckling. At points however, RIPD seems confused about how far it should go with humor, choosing to stay on a safe PG-13 path in scenes where R-rated lines would be better. This hesitance made more sense after I learned from an actor who worked on the film, that it wasn’t supposed to be funny originally; the schtick was added during reshoots.
If there’s one good thing about this flick though, it’s that it’s short, well-paced and over quickly. Far from the best movie of the year, yet certainly not the worst. See it only if you have no other options at the theater.