A version of this review appears in Friday’s Weekend Life section of The Oklahoman.
Jeff Bridges’ turn as a loony lawman comes to the rescue many times in the supernatural action flick “R.I.P.D.”
But not even the man who was The Dude can redeem the soulless computer-generated effects, the herky-jerky tonal shifts and the unforgivable waste of an intriguing concept that haunt one of the summer’s biggest flops.
Although a few of his quips get lost in his marble-mouth drawl, Bridges goes for gusto in his “R.I.P.D.” sidekick role, a gleeful redux of his Rooster Cogburn from “True Grit” and Jeff Lebowski from “The Big Lebowski,” with a bit “Crazy Heart” crooning thrown in. (Bridges and his esteemed “Crazy Heart” collaborator T Bone Burnett reunite to craft the outlandish ditty “The Better Man,” the unquestioned highlight of the “R.I.P.D.”)
Cribbing from your own work is one thing, but director Robert Schwentke (“RED”) and the film’s five credited writers rip off any number of modern-era blockbusters in their efforts to adapt Peter M. Lenkov’s Dark Horse comic. Too bad they didn’t steal “The Matrix’s” innovative visual style, “Ghostbusters’” memorable dialogue or “Men in Black’s” sheer sense of fun while they were pilfering those movies’ plot points.
Attractive and affable as usual, Ryan Reynolds could use some of Will Smith’s easy charm in his lead turn as lightly soiled Boston cop Nick Walker, whose second thoughts about pocketing some gold from a crime scene get him shot in the face by his much dirtier partner, Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Given his dabbling in the dastardly, Nick is in a bad way when it comes to eternal judgment, but The newly deceased detective is given a chance to redeem himself by serving in the R.I.P.D.
As the sassily sardonic and sexily Mod boss Mildred Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) explains, the Rest in Peace Department seeks out and apprehends “Deados,” ghostly baddies who have eluded the afterlife and remained behind on Earth. The recently departed Nick is partnered with long-dead U.S. Marshal Roy Pulsifer (Bridges), a chatty, trigger-happy maverick who prefers working alone but gamily goes along when Nick’s living past predictably intersects with his deceased present.
Nick also is assigned an unassuming avatar — an elderly banana-wielding Chinese man played by character actor James Hong — that prevents him from reconnecting with his beloved wife (Stephanie Szostak) and develops avatar envy when he realizes Roy’s alter ego is a hairdryer-slinging supermodel (real-life model Marisa Miller).
The hilarious avatar gag, coupled with quirky quips about Indian food and Steely Dan, proves that “R.I.P.D.” has a comic pulse. But lifeless storytelling prevents the undead action-comedy from rising to the occasion.
Bonus features: two alternate openings, additional alternate and deleted scenes, four making-of featurettes, a gag reel and “motion comics” that show how the avatar concept translated to film.