R.I.P.D. isn’t nearly as bad as its near-deafening advance buzz indicated — though, really, what movie could be? — but that doesn’t mean the laughs and gasps are satisfyingly abundant in this loud and clunky sci-fi fantasy action-comedy. As expensive and useless as something you’d buy in a duty-free store, it appears to be the work of filmmakers who saw Men in Black at an impressionable age, slapped themselves on their foreheads, and exclaimed: “Hey! We can do that!” Unfortunately, they can’t – though not for any lack of trying.
As expensive and useless as something you'd buy in a duty-free store, it appears to be the work of filmmakers who saw Men in Black at an impressionable age and exclaimed, "Hey! We can do that!"
Mary-Louise Parker is a deadpan delight as Proctor, the R.I.P.D. bureau chief who first recruits, and then commands, Walker. Indeed, her off-center line readings are funny even when the actual lines are not, and there’s something nicely, subtly wacky about the way her character’s coiffure and attire – along with the never-explained (or even acknowledged) presence of a vintage Fresca bottle on her desk – suggest that Proctor met her own demise sometime in the mid-1960s.
Roycephus Pulsifer – who’d really rather you call him Roy, and I’ll gladly comply – died even further back in time; specifically, the Wild West era, give or take a decade, when Roy rode tall as a sheriff before he, too, was waylaid by a treacherous partner and drafted into R.I.P.D. (A running gag – well, more like a plodding joke – involves Roy’s unpleasant memories of seeing his own corpse violated by hungry coyotes.)
The relationship that forms between Roy and Nick – who, naturally, are paired as partners – is rather less interesting, since the bonding comes off as less a parody of buddy-cop movie clichés than a rote rehashing of same. And while it seems modestly clever at first that they appear to onlookers as different entities while they roam among the living – Roy is a drop-dead beautiful woman (Marisa Miller), Nick is an elderly Asian gentleman (James Hong) – the joke remains, like too many other things in R.I.P.D., lazily under-developed.
Still, as I noted at the outset, R.I.P.D. is by no means a total disaster, and its minor pleasures are sufficiently pleasurable to make it bearable, if not laudable. Put it like this: When a publicist asked for my opinion as I walked out of a preview screening, she seemed pleasantly surprised when I replied, “Well, it didn’t suck.” Evidently, she was expecting something worse. Frankly, so was I.
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