Scott, we’re reviewing RIPD, or as I like to call it “Men In Black 4”.
(Dr. Scott Allison, Professor of Psychology, University of Richmond)
Yes, RIPD ripd-off not one, but two movies. More on that later.
Our story begins with Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) feeling guilty over some contraband he has stolen from his last collar. He and partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) kept some gold pieces of what looks like a larger artifact. Nick tells Bobby that he’s going to turn himself in and return the bootie. Bobby says he’s OK with that, but on their next bust, Bobby kills Nick during a shootout.
Nick finds himself in conditional heaven. He is told that Judgement Day will be kinder to him if he returns to earth in an altered human form to round up the undead who are trying to take over the world. Nick is partnered with another deceased lawman from the old west by the name of Roy (Jeff Bridges). Together they use the threat of Indian food (yes, you read that correctly) to reveal which undead are posing as humans.
RIPD is a CGI-fest with lots of strange-looking creatures. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to how the creatures got their bizarre looks. The majority of the film is Roy and Nick driving around town in an old Lincoln Continental retiring bad souls to the netherworld. In this way, it looks a lot like Men in Black. We have the veteran lawman Roy showing the ropes to the new guy Nick. The parallels are almost uncanny.
As you’ve said, Greg, RIPD is essentially Men in Black-lite, and once could also argue that it’s a derivative blending of MIB and the movie Ghost. RIPD even borrows characters from other movies. Most notably, Fat Bastard from Austin Powers makes a bizarre appearance, although in RIPD he dons sideburns and is called Fat Elvis.
Jeff Bridges is a delight playing a deceased old lawman from the wild west, but Ryan Reynolds is truly boring in his role as a modern cop. Men in Black worked because you had two compelling and charismatic characters played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. In RIPD, Jeff Bridges delivers a rowdy, quirky performance as Roy, but Ryan Reynolds looks like he’s sleepwalking through the movie. Reynolds doesn’t say or do anything interesting, nor does he have any noteworthy quirks or mannerisms. He’s just “there”, going through the motions, and the film suffers as a result.
There is a love interest for Nick in the form of Julia (Stephanie Szostak). Nick tries to communicate with her, but he doesn’t look like himself. No, he looks like an elderly Asian man (played by veteran character actor James Hong). Which harkens back to when Patrick Swayze looked like Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost. And the rip-off doesn’t stop there. The main goal for our heroes is to thwart the building of a device (made of the gold pieces) which when complete will allow all the ghosts trapped in the afterlife to be returned to earth. Which is not much different than the point of Ghostbusters.
Even with all these similarities, I enjoyed RIPD. It wasn’t fresh, but Jeff Bridge’s performance is spot-on. I never saw Bridges on the screen. I only saw Roy. So for a fun summer chase movie with at least one good performance, I give RIPD 3 out of 5 Reels. The hero story is a bit thin with Ryan Reynolds pretty much looking like himself from every movie he’s ever been in. I give him 2 out of 5 heroes.
RIPD is a formulaic retread of past movies but is also a fun romp as long as you’re willing to turn your brain off and enjoy some silly-looking monsters go on a rampage in Boston. I would say that Jeff Bridges’ performance alone is reason enough to see this movie, but that’s only true if you’re absolutely pining for a poor man’s version of Men in Black. I award RIPD 2 Reels out of 5.
This is a buddy hero story, and I suppose amidst all the lunacy of chasing the undead you can find some character growth and transformation. But there’s really little else about the heroic components of the film to commend it. Therefore, like you, Greg, I give the heroes 2 Heroes out of 5.