R.I.P.D. movie review

by Richard David Smith III
I must confess, R.I.P.D. had me at “Steely Dan.” Let me explain. You see, Steely Dan is the music of choice in the offices of R.I.P.D. (Rest In Peace Department) because it, “seems to calm people down,” according to the head of the department, Proctor (played to stoic perfection by Mary-Louise Parker). Being a lifelong fan of Steely Dan, I appreciate any nod to the great Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. I also know that they are one of the stingiest bands in existence when it comes to their copywritten material (they once charged a rap group the most a band has ever charged a group for a sample in the history of music at the time). I dig a movie that will pay for quality. Aside from the calming jazz of Steely Dan, R.I.P.D. is a wild ride. The obvious comparison is Men in Black, and I would say that R.I.P.D. is like the supernatural M.I.B., except that M.I.B. was already the supernatural M.I.B. With that in mind, we march forth with the review…
Based on a comic book, R.I.P.D. essentially begins with a recently slain cop (I don’t think I’m giving anything away here), Nick (played by Ryan “I have never turned down a comic book movie” Reynolds), who must decide whether or not to join the R.I.P.D. or face the ultimate judgment from the man upstairs. Nick chooses the latter, and is partnered with another deceased cop, this one from the Old West in the form of trigger-happy Roy (Jeff Bridges). Bridges is always enjoyable, but this is the sort of performance he can mail in at this point in his career (think a poor man’s Rooster Cogburn character from True Grit). They are tasked by Proctor to round up and arrest “Dead-Os,” the ghoulish remains of the deceased who are literally hell-bent on staying on earth and holding dominion over it.
After consulting with their Boston Red Sox obsessed informant—a Dead-O (played by Yes Dear’s Mike O’Malley) who Roy allows to reside at Fenway Park in exchange for insider tips—they begin to realize that a grander plan may be in play by the heretofore clueless Dead-Os. The R.I.P.D. agents, who buzz to earth through the restroom of a VCR repair shop, are seen as avatars on earth. Roy is seen as a hot blonde and Nick is seen as an elderly Asian man (the cheap jokes write themselves). The Dead-Os are also disguised on earth, and are exposed as the demons they are only upon smelling cumin, a spice commonly used in Indian food. Why this occurs is not really explained to any degree, and is only one of the many confusing, completely random aspects of this movie—like the Dead-Os subsequent scheme, involving the Staff of Jericho, to reverse the ghost vortex from ‘to’ the afterlife to ‘from’ the afterlife. In a nice turn as a not-so-nice guy, Kevin Bacon’s character, Hayes, leads this insurgence.
So far, many critics’ online reviews of R.I.P.D. have been horrible. I disagree. Every bad review I’ve read basically points out the same problems that one would have with any movie based on a comic book. Of course R.I.P.D. isn’t On the Waterfront (which is being screened at the Florida Theatre this weekend), but that should not be what you are expecting going in. Sure, the premise is outlandish, the plot is nutty, and the cheesy one-liners are aplenty, but isn’t that what a big blockbuster movie of this variety is all about? The 3-D visuals are utilized to full effect, the action incessant, and it is much wittier than you might expect. When you review a movie such as R.I.PD., I believe you have to look at it through the 3-D enhanced glasses of a summer popcorn movie, and, in that respect, R.I.P.D. delivers, D.O.A.