R.I.P.D.: Too Awful to Review?

Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds are two dead cops in the summer's most inert movie

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Scott Garfield / Universal Pictures

On a torrid late afternoon in Manhattan, Universal Pictures finally let critics see its action comedy R.I.P.D., starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds as a pair of deceased lawmen who return to modern Boston to confront a horde of zombies, called “Deados.” The movie, based on Peter M. Lenkov’s Dark Horse comic book, arrived with its own stench of decay. A dozen years in gestation, with an announced budget of $135 million, this knockoff mashup of Ghostbusters and Men in Black bore the mark of a zombie artifact — hence the screening for critics just hours before the picture would open for business.

Less a bad movie than simply not a movie, R.I.P.D. gives every indication of having been a sloppy first-draft script (by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi) that the producers, in a strange spasm of innovation and despair, said, “Aaah, what the hell, let’s just shoot the damn thing.” Any consideration of the film deserves the same level of carelessness: no artful shaping of the review, no arduously composed lede and capper. So here is a rough transcription of my notes, scribbled in the 3-D dark, while sitting through the summer’s most inert film.

*    *    *    *

Nick (Reynolds), a Boston cop on detail with his partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon, in the familiar Kevin Bacon sleaze-bag role), finds a stash of gold that they decide to keep. Nick has second thoughts, since he’s a good guy at heart, and Hayes shoots him in the face. The dead Nick is slowly sucked into the sky — along with Catholics below the age of six, R.I.P.D. believes that Heaven is “up” — where he lands in the office of Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker), the head of the Rest in Peace Department. She explains his mission, but it was hard to concentrate since Parker is upstaged by a bottle of Fresca she keeps on her otherwise pristine desktop. For the sake of the bottom line, I hope the Coca-Cola Company paid $135 million for this product placement.

*    *    *    *

Nick is partnered with a Wyatt Earp-type named Roysephus Pulsipher (Bridges), the veteran peace officer — 19th century — to Nick’s raw recruit. They head back to Boston for a case that will of course lead to the stolen gold and its ultimate, cataclysmic, Raiders of the Lost Ark-ish purpose. On Earth, humans, including Nick’s wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak), see him not as his hunky self but as an older Chinese guy (James Hong); Roy has the Earth avatar of a blond bombshell (Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Marisa Miller). But the weirdest body switch is in the movie’s casting: Bridges’ role was originally to be played by Zach Galifianakis. The wardrobe department must have had to make some serious adjustments to Roy’s couture.

* * * *

The pitch meeting: “It’s old cop, young cop, only they’re both dead and back on Earth, like Warren Beatty in Heaven Can Wait.” David Dobkin, who had directed mismatched buddies (in the Jackie Chan-Owen Wilson Shanghai Knights) and a Ryan Reynolds body-switch comedy (The Change-Up), eventually passed the reins to Robert Schwentke, who made his feature-film debut with an old-cop, young-cop drama (Tattoo) and then directed a teleporting-body romance (The Time Traveler’s Wife). Wondering, though: Was there a director on the set during the R.I.P.D. shoot? Or is this the first film made by an intern while the real director was at lunch?

* * * *

A half-hour into the film, and it feels like the eighth day of jury duty.

* * * *

Being dead has its advantages, like not dying when falling from a tall building. When Roy does that, and lands on Nick, the tough old dude gives the callow young one his first compliment: “You have a very impressive crumple zone.” Reynolds, who can attribute his career success less to his acting teacher than to his personal trainer, usually gets to display acres of his perfect torso, but not here. The star has two new movies this week — the other is the DreamWorks* animated feature Turbo, for which he provides the title voice — and his fans get hardly a glimpse of Reynolds with his shirt off.

* * * *

Parker is also in two movies this weekend: R.I.P.D. and Red 2. She must wish, as we all do, that Weeds were still occupying her time.

* * * *

And Bridges: He should think about mothballing that “coot” character he played in Men Who Stare at Goats, Crazy Heart and True Grit. The varmint swagger and the intonations steeped in tobacco juice were fine once or twice, but outsize is not the right size for a performer long acclaimed for his range and subtlety. I’m starting to think that The Big Lebowski was a stroke of great bad fortune for Bridges; he kind of stopped being an actor and embraced the cartoon excesses of a character actor. Or, worse, just a character. If the R.I.P.D. producers wanted a big comic turn from a Lebowski star, they should have hired John Goodman, who at least has the girth to match his comic grandeur.

* * * *

It’s an oven outside the theater, but the slate of this week’s new pictures — the horror film The Conjuring, a minor cartoon feature called Turbo, a Red sequel and this — makes it seem like January in July. Is the glut of summer blockbuster wannabes over? For the last two months we were at least allowed the hope of Hollywood at its muscular, commercial best. Judging from R.I.P.D., the dumpster season has arrived early.

* * * *

For an expensive summer movie, R.I.P.D. looks pretty cheesy. The production design of the Heaven or Limbo sets look as if they were cobbled together by someone who saw Brazil when he was a kid, applied some of Terry Gilliam’s steampunk gadgetry, then tried to blend it with the sterility of a dentist’s office. The Deados are transformed into Incredible Hulk-style monsters through CGI effects that are about as sophisticated as the rubber masks in an Ed Wood movie. If you must watch the undead running amok in a large city, see World War Z.

* * * *

Boston has to get its priorities aligned. Three months ago, the people in charge shut down the city for a day to chase one guy (who’s on the cover of the Rolling Stone this week). But at the end of R.I.P.D., when the undead unleash their rampage, there’s barely a living cop in sight.

* * * *

The movie is almost over. I now feel as if I’ve been strapped into a hospital bed, and the wall TV is blaring a Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo marathon, and I can’t reach the remote.

* * * *

The Manhattan heat wave stalled the subway train I usually take to midtown. After the movie I stood for nearly a half-hour with hundreds of other sweltering commuters in the 42nd Street station, until someone — not a Transit employee, just a helpful civilian — announced that no trains would be coming. That was a draining, annoying experience, but easier to take than the 96 minutes of R.I.P.D.

 

64 comments
foxmoon82
foxmoon82

Wow, did he and I watch the same movie?  Although I found it to be unoriginal, the performance of the two leads made for an incredibly entertaining time, and I was never bored.

ScottRogers
ScottRogers

I just watched RIPD and I couldn't take my eyes off that damned Fresca bottle either.

SteveObscene
SteveObscene

[along with Catholics below the age of six, R.I.P.D. believes that Heaven is “up”]Dropped my jaw in utter amazement of disgust upon reading this sodomized sentence which was obviously forced uncomfortably in past desire and acceptance. That sentence of yours bares nothing to the review, but more importantly you write it as if you believe "heaven being 'up'" is incorrect, attempting to liken it to a childhood fantasy while attacking Catholicism. Absolutely the most grotesque line I've read in a long time. You do not deserve a job where you work with people or criticize others (nevermind a job at Time) because you are flat-out ugly and offensive in behavior. One could think the only reason you didn't like the film was because you're an atheistic idiot inbred on a social community who wouldn't accept you for who you are if you didn't hide your sick intentions. I am utterly appalled and terrified you made it through the hiring process.

jenette
jenette

Richard Corliss: Too Awful to Read

Corliss, who can attribute his bazillion years at Time less to his critical thinking skills than to his way with a potshot...

'Buried,' 'The Nines,' 'Smokin Aces,' 'Chaos Theory, 'Definitely, Maybe,' and many more films where Reynolds shows his fine acting skills and leaves his fine body under wraps. Did you give them this kind of space? I doubt it. 

Pay attention to these kinds of films and performances, or go retire with your obnoxious peer Rex Reed and you two can have a grand old time making ignorant, irrelevant quips about actors' physiques.


taylorswift
taylorswift

I liked this review.  It's funny.  This movie sounds awful.  It looked awful from the clips I've seen.

kjb
kjb

I saw RIPD and RED 2 and loved both, great action scenes, good overall story, and I wouldn't mind seeing a second RIPD or a third RED.  Critics need to get their heads out of their asses and just enjoy the movie for what it is a movie, a piece of fiction. After a long hard day or week people just want to relax and a good laugh is a great way to do that, why do you think  so many people love and watch "Big Bang Theory" daily.  Everyone in the theater was laughing at these movies maybe we are just to simple minded for the full of themselves' critics.  I have learn if the critics pan a movie it most likely a good movie, and if they loved it most likely no need in going.  I have a friend that acts like the critics, he would never watch RIPD or RED, if his wife or I make him watch "Big Bang Theory" he is complaining, this coming from a man that loved "Blood Diamond" where I couldn't wait for the movie to be over.

imtwk
imtwk

great - more bashing from the "critics" typically means higher entertainment value - and if the movie is just over the top with stupid humor and bad one liners... o well, cheesy makes it more laughable.  screw the "artistic" value - go to see live performance.... God only knows I can use a good laugh those days....

PatrickO'Rourke
PatrickO'Rourke

I am so sick and tired of listening to critics.. I don't care if you have an education in theater or film because even with an education, you still, like the rest of us, have a personal opinion, just that you get paid to do so. The best way to screen a movie is to have opening night then after listen to the people leaving the theater. On average you have 250 to 300 people watching a premier movie, so that's 300 thumbs up or down. 

The problem with most critics is that movies like this one mentioned in the article is not their cup of tea, acting is an action movie is not the same as a Love or Girly movie. 

In action or space movies, the movie has to carry the actors not the other way around such as in a non-action movie.

In a good action movie, you can OK acting as long as the movie itself has the punch you expect. So therefore the film carries itself, but in a true story or comedy its the actors that are needed to carry that type of film. 

Myself personally when I go and see an action or space movie, I'm looking for the bug stunts or wild special effects. 

We are our own personal critic. And I'll look at the expressions of the movie goers before I listen to a critic. 

ChanHol
ChanHol

For an "inert" movie "too awful to review", there are too many words on this page.

FiguresArealive
FiguresArealive

Why do these critics have to be so stupid!   Leave people alone, critics are just like journalists and news reporters.  They will hurt anyone and not care about who they hurt or how many families they destroy!  Journalists, Media Reporters and critics all are satans demons!

stephenwils
stephenwils

These critics are completely out-of-touch. We saw RIPD last night and it was a FAR cry better than Despicable Me 2 (which we thought was pretty awful). On the other hand, the Lone Ranger was one of the more clever movies of the summer--and it was slammed by the critics. RIPD was hilarious--well worth the money... Sometimes I start to believe that there's a "secret society" of critics--linked to commercial interests--that want a movie to either fail or succeed, based not on its merits, but rather on some other "pretzel logic" of which we the people haven't a clue... MORAL OF THE STORY: Never trust a critic--they're not real people...

JohnnyBigMc
JohnnyBigMc

I often find when one harketh ye too much about a film being awful, it's generally a rule I will watch it anyway and probably like it. For some reason, so could critics just really don't know what I like in a movie. No matter how hard they try to clone my brain, they just can't.

RedJohn
RedJohn

Visual effects were done by not a U.S. company, but a Canadian one using some 30+ recent Vancouver school graduates.  All helmed by a U.K.-based Mike Wassel who is not even listing himself on the IMDB credits he is so embarrassed.  He did Hellboy 2 and that bombed in the box office too.

NJN
NJN

I admire the Bridge's family immensely, but Jeff really has to screen his parts more carefully.  I couldn't see him as Rooster Cogburn in "True Grit".  The original was perfect, except that John Wayne didn't get an Oscar.  Jeff is a witty and intelligent gentleman.  I'd like him to use the intelligence a bit more.

  But then, maybe the best parts were left on the cutting room floor and it would have been a decent film.  After all, Ghost Rider had a lot of dead people in it and that film I could at least handle.

Sis
Sis

Coca cola supports feeding Americans genetically modified food. Genetically modified food is responsible for that gut you're sporting. 

rship19
rship19

Why so angry? Sometimes a couple of well-turned phrases will do the trick.

And we understand that you saw fit to heap praise on 'Cold Mountain', 'Speed Racer' and 'Moulin Rouge'. 

MichaelWayneHoward
MichaelWayneHoward

Joe Piscipo did this movie back in the 80's...it was called "Dead Heat". Same premise. And was just as inert as this one...

works4me
works4me

Is this the start of the meltdown we've been warned about? More explosions, more realistic blood squirts, more pink flash heads exploding. Why do we pay for the trash Hollywood keeps putting out?

BillShut
BillShut

And yet, it will probably do better than some of the trash put out by Hollywood, and be deemed a moderate success.  If the author wants to complain about the fare put out by Hollywood, his aim point should be a little more shotgun, and a little less laser.

Maggoty
Maggoty

Interesting, I saw the movie. I didn't go into it expecting something deep or really beautiful like crash or avatar, just a fun hour or so laughing at the absurd. It also seems like the reviewer is more mad at the actor's agents for leaving behind their type casting than the movie itself. The original casting of a comedian should probably say something about how this movie is meant to be taken. Everyone in the theater was rolling with laughter when I saw it.

MarkFrench1
MarkFrench1

Just saw the TV trailer this morning.  More wretched, over-the-top CGI explosions and crashes is all I could make out other than the thunderous noise.  Can't you just picture the idea being first thought up by a pair of hot shots having lunch in Hollywood?  One of them is reading his LA Times & runs across the old acronym "R.I.P."... then they start gabbing about another article, bout the LAPD.  Then guy #2 blurts out "Hold everything!!   I've GOT it!!  Listen.  R.I.P.   L.A.P.D.  Ya see where I'm goin?  Boom!!  "R.I.P.D." ! ! !    Dead cops come back to earth!  Is this going to be brilliant or what, man?!?

buffalo.barnes102
buffalo.barnes102

More by-the-numbers sludge splattered on the screens of your local movie-plex. Screenplays written so the dumbest guy in the audience can figure it out; soundtracks blaring at ear bleeding volume; the "flavor-of-the-week "star" with three stock expressions and not much else; directors well past their prime or newbies with 1-page resumes, all combining to keep anyone with an IQ above that of a geranium away from the theaters. And then comes the sequel. No thanks.

LeoDaugherty
LeoDaugherty

Back in the 1940s a major studio released "Bill and Coo" -- an animated (stop-motion) feature about real love birds made out of  taxidermitized dead birds.  In reviewing it, the great James Agee simply wrote:  "The god-damndest thing ever seen."

I think Denby, Maslin, Kael and Ebert might well have said something similar about this dead dog.

glennra3
glennra3

That might be the worst movie review I've ever read.


Why compound a bad movie with a sloppy review? I can't imagine David Denby, Janet Maslin, Pauline Kael, or Roger Ebert just mailing it in because the movie was bad. 

NormanDostal
NormanDostal

come on, man-its a real stinker. Raise the bar

NormanDostal
NormanDostal

heaene being "up" is absurd and only believed by retarded religious sheep. If heaven exist-it doenst-its not "up"

Lobosan
Lobosan

@SteveObscene

Way to take a joke. If you actually believe that Heaven is a physical location in the clouds, I think you might need to get your head checked.  Last I heard, no planes were crashing into Heaven every time they ascended lol.

foxmoon82
foxmoon82

@taylorswiftIf you liked Men in Black, or you like Jeff Bridges, there's a good chance you will enjoy this movie.

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@kjb

"I saw RIPD and RED 2 and loved both, great action scenes, good overall story, and I wouldn't mind seeing a second RIPD or a third RED."

people also liked baby geniuses and the tooth fairy enough to make sequels. like these movies, those blew and making more was a huge waste.
 

"Critics need to get their heads out of their asses and just enjoy the movie for what it is a movie, a piece of fiction."

fiction can still suck.  no one is bashing this movie for being unrealistic ("fictional"). they're blasting it because it sucks. big time. like more than porn star at a gang bang. 


After a long hard day or week people just want to relax and a good laugh is a great way to do that, why do you think  so many people love and watch "Big Bang Theory" daily.  

"good" is the key word there.  people want a "good" laugh. not laughing at mindless crap designed for the lowest common denominator.  the reason people watch "big bang theory" is because it's intelligent and funny. neither of which can be said about R.I.P.D.

"Everyone in the theater was laughing at these movies maybe we are just to simple minded for the full of themselves' critics. "

sounds like you are.

"I have learn if the critics pan a movie it most likely a good movie, and if they loved it most likely no need in going."

 sounds like someone's got sour grapes over the critics tearing apart all the "good" movies. let me guess, you also think adam sandler, kevin james, and tyler perry are the three leading comedic geniuses of our generation? not all movies critics say are bad are bad and vice versa (clearly, seeing as how it's all opinion), but there's a reason critics are paid for their opinions on movies (hint: it's because they know what they're talking about).

"I have a friend that acts like the critics, he would never watch RIPD or RED, if his wife or I make him watch "Big Bang Theory" he is complaining, this coming from a man that loved "Blood Diamond" where I couldn't wait for the movie to be over."

He probably loved "Blood Diamond" because its an amazing movie (check imdb.com or rottentomatoes.com. not just the critics think so. the vast majority of EVERYONE thinks so) that makes you think about what you're watching a bit, not 2 hours of fart jokes and lame one-liners that fall flat.  you're obviously entitled to your opinions, but god i pity your taste in movies. you're missing out on so much amazing stuff out there

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@imtwk

"God only knows I can use a good laugh those days...."

then why would you go see R.I.P.D.?

WilfTarquin
WilfTarquin

@imtwk If you've already decided that you're going to love the movie, why are you reading reviews?

cjh2nd
cjh2nd

@PatrickO'Rourke 

why do you think they get paid for their opinions and you don't? could it be because they have an education and know what they're talking about? you don't go to a doctor that has no education in medicine. you don't go to a lawyer who didn't pass the BAR. its the same concept here.  

"In a good action movie, you can OK acting as long as the movie itself has the punch you expect. So therefore the film carries itself, but in a true story or comedy its the actors that are needed to carry that type of film. "

that's flat out wrong. action movies need good acting too, otherwise they suck (pretty much any steven segal movie for example).  

"In action or space movies, the movie has to carry the actors not the other way around such as in a non-action movie"

wrong again. actors carry a movie and vice versa. it's a give and take. you can have the best story in the world but if the acting sucks, so will the movie. you can have the best acting in the world and a crappy story, and the movie will suck. 

your whole argument is a lame attempt at justifying why actions movies are allowed to suck and you don't do a good job. your whole premise is that action movies should be held to a lower standard, which indicates you know they're not very good for the most part, which i think is a cop-out. all movies should be held to the same standards: a good story, good directing, and good acting. doesn't matter what the genre is. if it's good it's good. if it's bad, it's bad.

AnnaNuehm
AnnaNuehm

Said the critic of the critics.

NormanDostal
NormanDostal

Hellboy 2 was actually a box office success and loved by critics-are you high or just dumb?

TallusRip
TallusRip

@RedJohn That's because Hellboy isn't very good.  The first one was boring and so was the second.  Bringing in Del Torro was like begging people to watch it, but not even his visuals could save it.

jmax66502
jmax66502

@NJN John Wayne did win the Best Actor Oscar for True Grit.

polonel
polonel

@NJN THe Bridges haven't done nearly as good a job allocating persona among the siblings as have the Quaids.  Jeff is working hard making the trek from matinee idol to buffoon. And it's moderately intersting seeeing his progresss. THis movie, presumably, is a milestone.  WIth the Quaids the roles are clearly delineated. 

glennra3
glennra3

@Sis 

Is that a story treatment for a movie script?

Sorry, I already saw it. 

rship19
rship19

@MichaelWayneHoward Good catch, MWH! Mr. Corliss might choose not to see 'Dead Heat' (1988).

Treat Williams also starring.

TallusRip
TallusRip

@works4me Because most people in this country have incredibly low standards.  Look at Saturday morning cartoons these days.  Kids are being groomed to see cr@p every day and think it wondrous.  The days of being a kid watching 90s Spiderman, X-Men and Bill Nye the Science Guy, growing up to watch epics like Lord of the Rings, are over.  Now kids see Cow and Chicken, and My Gym Partner is a Monkey and grow up to watch movies like this one.

evoc
evoc

@Maggoty Maybe it will become the next Rocky Horror Picture Show...

glennra3
glennra3

@LeoDaugherty

I have no problem with the conclusion the critic reached, just the fact that he feel's a poorly made movie is an excuse to submit his notes as a review.


Writing is difficult work. I appreciate that. However, if you can't muster enough enthusiasm to write a real review then pick another movie to write about.



DeweySayenoff
DeweySayenoff

@glennra3Did you miss the paragraph that begins with "Less a bad movie than simply not a movie..."?  "Any consideration of the film deserves the same level of carelessness:

To translate that for folks with only a 6th grade education, that means the review is going to be just as good as the reviewer thought the film was.

And from your post, he hit the nail squarely on the head.  Good for him.  Trouble was, YOU missed the point entirely.  If you're going to comment, it's best you're sure you understood what the point was to begin with.

foxmoon82
foxmoon82

@cjh2nd@kjb I thoroughly enjoyed RIPD.  The plot was ripped right out of Men in Black, but I had a great time nonetheless.  I take critics' reviews with a grain of salt, and find I only agree with them about 50% of the time.

foxmoon82
foxmoon82

@cjh2nd@PatrickO'Rourke I find most critics have an agenda, and if the movie disagrees with said agenda they pan the movie.  As long as you bear this in mind you can often glean some useful information from a review...but more often not.

shopaholic_anon
shopaholic_anon

@cjh2nd @PatrickO'Rourke 

You sound so condescending. Let me guess....You're a "Movie Critic" too? To each their own, some critically acclaimed movies are fabulous to watch, some are downright sad (Sideways anyone?).  Just because you enjoy a certain genre doesn't mean the entire world has to, and if you feel that way, you need an ego check.

Most Movie Critics are nothing more than journalists paid to watch and rate movies for their respective publishings.

glennra3
glennra3

@DeweySayenoff @glennra3


Yes, I read the review and was not impressed by the writer's poor excuse for turning in a half-hearted effort.


Even a bad movie can yield an entertaining and creative review in the hands of the right critic. As an example, take Roger Ebert's review of Battlefield Earth (a truly horrible movie). From Ebert's review:


"Battlefield Earth is like taking a bus trip with someone who has needed a bath for a long time. It's not merely bad; it's unpleasant in a hostile way....If you want to save yourself the ticket price, go into the kitchen, cue up a male choir singing the music of hell, and get a kid to start banging pots and pans together. Then close your eyes and use your imagination."


That is how a writer does his job, even when the movie he is writing about is terrible. 



If you are impressed with a high school level literary trick, then good for you. There is plenty of bad writing out there to keep you forever entertained.