Jeff Bridges collects a big paycheck but burns through a good chunk of his reservoir of Oscar-winning good will with “R.I.P.D.,” the worst comic book adaptation since “Jonah Hex.”
I’d say he drags Ryan Reynolds down with him, but Reynolds is an old hand at mediocre movies adapted from that medium. As Nick, he’s a bland and generic Boston cop — morally tested by temptation, murdered by his immoral partner (Kevin Bacon).
It’s Bridges, doing a sort of Wild Bill-Rooster Cogburn-by-way-of-The Dude, who sticks his neck out. He’s a long-dead Old West lawman named Roy who is Nick’s new partner in the Rest in Peace Department — dead cops who get to redeem their reps, post mortem, by keeping the Evil Dead in their place.
And as faintly amusing and reminiscent of Tommy Lee Jones’ “Men in Black” turn as this might be, there’s no way these two smart guys didn’t see this was piffle on the page.
Whatever “RED” and “Flightplan” director Robert Schwentke might have promised, this is a movie with no depth, no intellectual heft and zero ambition. There’s not an original thought, action, character or situation in between the big, expensive and generic effects.
Good comic book movies have scripts that simply use them as a launching pad to something deeper. Bad comic book movies showcase the shortcomings of that medium — broad, “colorful” characters in inane stories where their occasional one-liner doesn’t lift this junk to literature.
A little “Ghost,” a lot of “Men in Black,” “R.I.P.D.” has Mary-Louise Parker as the Proctor of the Afterlife, the station chief who pairs up partners and gives these guys their marching orders. Keep the “Dead-Os” — MIB-like monster people — from returning to Earth and taking over.
The cops have appropriate weapons. The living can see them, just not in their former guises. So Roy looks like bombshell blond Marissa Miller, and Nick can never convince his widow (Stephanie Szostak) that he’s not the Chinese character actor James Hong. More should have been done with that.
Roy is a trigger-happy gunslinger “willin’ to lethal up” when the need occurs. Nick just struggles to adjust to being nearly indestructible, but able to feel the pain of plummeting from great heights and getting hit by a truck. Roy sings, plays the concertina, does cute tricks with guns and his hat, wisecracks about the “soul stank” of the Dead-Os they hunt, and makes Nick “get yer snowman on.” Be Frosty, in other words.
Bridges has all this exposition — explaining the afterlife — to get through. With a drawl. Bacon wears his usual lip-curled evil sneer and Reynolds tries to stay professional even though his face says, “First ‘Green Lantern,’ now this.”
Only Parker, deadpanning her way through an afterlife where Steely Dan plays on the Muzak and Fresca is the soda of choice, escapes scorn. You kind of wish she’d been paired with Bridges in a mismatched buddy comedy — one that has nothing to do with comic books. I’ll bet Reynolds wishes that, too.
Cast: Ryan Reynolds, Jeff Bridges, Mary Louise Parker, Kevin Bacon, James Hong
Directed by Robert Schwentke, screenplay by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi. A Universal release.
Running time: 1:35
MPAA rating: PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality, and language including sex references.