R.I.P.D. (2013) – Directed by Robert Schwentke – Starring Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marissa Miller, and Mike O’Malley.
I kinda love R.I.P.D.
Sure, it’s stupid and loud and derivative and childish, but it’s also pretty freaking hilarious. Well, Jeff Bridges is pretty freaking hilarious and the rest of the film is there to support him being pretty freaking hilarious, and the end result is 90 minutes of me smiling and laughing.
What else do you want out of a summer movie?
Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) and Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) are two Boston cops who’ve stolen some gold from some criminals after making a bust instead of turning it in. Nick buries his share in his backyard beneath an orange tree, because his wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak) likes oranges. Nick has a change of heart about the gold, so on their next assignment, Bobby kills him, which gets Nick drafted into the R.I.P.D., the Rest in Peace Department. What follows, of course, is a very Men In Black-ish set-up: Nick gets plopped down at a desk and recruited by Mildred (Mary-Louise Parker), then brought into the big cop room where he’s overwhelmed by this new world within a world he’s walked into, and finally he gets to meet his cantankerous older partner Roy Pulsipher (Bridges), who doesn’t want a partner.
And, you know, it really is very funny. Movies like R.I.P.D. depend greatly on the chemistry of the two leads and Bridges and Reynolds are great together: Roy is a cartoon and Nick is a CBS cop who wandered onto the wrong set. Nick largely plays the straight man to Roy’s rootin’-tootin’ antics, but that’s balanced off by Nick being a decent guy and Roy being a dick.
Full credit to Bridges for giving a fantastic performance. While Roy Pulsipher doesn’t match the Dude (what will?), Bridges commits fully to this Zen-spouting cartoon of a cowboy, and it’s Bridges’ performance that will get me to watch this movie a whole bunch of time. Every other line he delivers is worth repeating. When he tries to convince Nick to let go of his real life, including his wife, he admits that he “does not come from an emotional time and that “yes, in my day, I bought my love by the hour,” but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have good advice.
During the repeated references to his own death, in which Roy tells Nick he watched coyotes and buzzards eat his face, he admits, “one of them coyotes, he made love to my skull.”
When it’s time to get serious during the big final showdown, Roy stands in the street, ready for a very Western-esque showdown at high noon, and tells Nick, “They picked the wrong day to make a stand. I invented this shit.”
Because Bridges doesn’t shy away from the silliness of Roy, it makes the tough moments much more believable. The first time Roy tells Nick he needs him to “get your snowman on. Get Frosty,” it comes off as a joke. Near the end of the film, though, when Nick turns it back on Roy and asks if he’s frosty, Roy snarls back, “Icy hot,” signifying that he’s accepted Nick as his partner and that Nick has bought into Roy’s way of doing things.
R.I.P.D. offers up the gold plot – it turns out Bobby is actually a “Deado” and he’s trying to reassemble to take over the world – but what R.I.P.D. is mostly about is the masculinity of the American male. In the trailer, we were told that the R.I.P.D. is made up of the finest lawmen of their era, but Mildred tells Nick that serving in the R.I.P.D. is a way of increasing one’s odds of getting into Heaven when an individual finally sits in judgment before God. We might be dealing with good cops, but it’s also a case of dealing with men who are decidedly not angels. Nick’s crime is taking that gold, which might be, in his words, a “victimless crime,” but likely didn’t sit well with the big guy upstairs. He does it to make life better for Julia, but it’s still wrong.
Once they’re partnered up, Roy continuously tells Nick he has to let the past go, and we see that Roy’s way of dealing with the painful past is to swallow it whole and do his best to keep it bottled up.
R.I.P.D. is certainly not a perfect movie. The whole “Deados are really ugly” bit fell flat with me because it just looks like an excuse to spend money by adding something the suits think will move tickets. Likewise, the whole ending just feels unnecessarily big. We don’t need this to be an end of the world final act because Bobby’s kidnapping of Julia works much better.
For the bulk of the film, though, R.I.P.D. is a really enjoyable (if certainly derivative) movie. I’m surprised it’s so excoriated by critics and so ignored by the movie-going public, but maybe in a summer where sequels are in abundance, a movie that isn’t a sequel yet clearly feels like it kinda is had no chance.
Or maybe people are totally justified in disliking R.I.P.D. As I said, it’s not a great movie, but it is a great amount of fun. I look forward to seeing it again.
Please check out Mark Bousquet’s published works:
The Haunting of Kraken Moor (horror)
Gunfighter Gothic (weird western)
Stuffed Animals for Hire (children lit)
Dreamer’s Syndrome (urban fantasy)
Harpsichord and the Wormhole Witches (cosmic pulp)
Adventures of the Five (children lit)
Marvel Comics on Film