From the trailer, I had high hopes this film would deliver a smashing spectacle with great humor and a unique premise. Alas, this turned out to be one of those cases where the trailer is better than the movie itself.
To be fair, the film has its moments. The comedy never made me laugh outright, but there are amusing lines and situations throughout. Some of the most amusing moments emerge from the interplay between the characters, and the clever gag in which everybody sees them as different people. As far as the action goes, there is quite a bit of mass destruction and plenty of shoot-outs and fights. However, it is very manic, over-the-top, and strangely cartoony. The overall tone felt really uneven; the movie was fairly serious at times, deadpan in others, and overblown the rest of the time. I was never bored, but I was never fully engaged or invested in things.
It is a shame, because the film has some unique ideas here and there. The overall premise of an undead police department is pretty neat, they use a lot of cool weapons, and they have some really quirky rules and ideas. It's a weird world where Indian food causes the villainous "dead-o's" to "pop" into gaudy monsters (if you remember the beginning of Van Helsing, with Mr. Hyde...pretty much all the monsters look like that, perhaps cross-bred with the zombies from I Am Legend). Everybody perceives the two main characters as a hot blonde chick and an old Chinese dude. Sounds fun, right? For whatever reason, it all comes off as a superfluous effort to build comedy from being weird; it worked so well for the Men In Black films, but it all falls rather flat in RIPD.
The story overall is pretty fast and compact. It does a fine enough job of introducing the characters, slapping them together, and crafting some dynamic chemistry between them. However, the plot is pretty standard fare, and it never takes the time to truly invest the audience in the world it portrays. It shows just enough to make the plot work, but it never explains much, never builds on the things it briefly touches on, and never really makes us care.
The film uses a lot of stylish camera moves, fast-zooms, and slow-motion effects, which you could either see as being really cool or really dumb. Editing is okay in general. Acting is a mixed bag: Ryan Reynolds is strangely flat and emotionless throughout, save for the few love scenes, while Jeff Bridges steals the show repeatedly, in a role that almost seems to parody his role from True Grit. Kevin Bacon is pretty much himself, and I loved watching Mary-Louise Parker. Writing is not that great. This production uses okay sets, props, and costumes. Special effects look cool, but are on the cheap side. Music is hip and fun.
In the end, I couldn't help but to think of other films and how much better they are than RIPD. For stories that involve parallels between worlds of the living and worlds of the dead, I couldn't help but to think that the Bleach anime was a better story, and the Dead Like Me TV series was funnier. For that same concept with the perfect blend of action and comedy, the two Hellboy movies are effectively perfect. For comic-book-inspired stories about enforcers tackling the supernatural without the general public knowing, the three Men In Black movies succeed in everything RIPD tried to do, but failed. And even with the climax, with the dead threatening to rise up and end the world, I couldn't help but to remember how much better Ghostbusters was in this field. RIPD even has a brief staircase gag that reminded me of GB. All of those come recommended, but RIPD, not so much.
Given its poor box office reception, I think it's safe to say that RIPD will Rest in Piece, buried alongside such equally marginal pictures as Jonah Hex and Priest.
3/5 (Entertainment: Average | Story: Marginal | Film: Average)
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