By Bill Wine
They’re among the best lawmen who ever lived. And died.
And now they’re members of the R.I.P.D.
R.I.P.D. is a supernatural comedy about the Rest in Peace Department, made up of dead cops and sheriffs, deceased lawmen protecting the living from vampires, werewolves, zombies, and other creatures and malevolent spirits – “deados,” they call them – who threaten the world of the living.
This cops-versus-monsters thriller is based on the Dark Horse comic book – okay, graphic novel — Rest in Peace Department, by Peter M. Lenkov.
Stars Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges play deceased but undead policemen Nick Walker and Roy Pulsipher, respectively. Junior officer Walker is a contemporary Boston detective, senior officer Pulsipher a nineteenth-century marshal.
They’ve been dispatched by their otherworldly department to keep the peace from beyond the grave. That is, to serve and protect the living from the dangerous array of monstrous spirits trying to escape final judgment by disguising themselves as ordinary people and refuse to cross over peacefully through the tunnel to the afterlife on the other side.
Of course, Walker and Pulsipher are not what the still-living see when they look at them. What they see are a beautiful young woman (Marisa Miller) and a senior Chinese citizen (James Hong). This is, as Pulsipher explains to Walker, the universe’s witness protection program.
The slyly funny Mary-Louise Parker as their R.I.P.D. boss and Kevin Bacon, who only needs one of his degrees as Walker’s ex-partner, contribute extended supporting turns.
Walker and Pulsipher are trying to prevent whatever apocalyptic scheme the army of deados has in store for the living. Meanwhile, the recently slain Walker wants to find out why he was killed and how he might get back to his beloved wife (Stephanie Szoszak), while the long-dead Pulsipher continues to resent the frightful way in which he was killed.
Director Robert Schwentke (RED, Flightplan, The Time Traveler’s Wife) and his screenwriters (Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi, and David Dobkin) give the film a supernatural dark-comic edge that recalls Men in Black (MIB) – sometimes so dangerously close to the plagiarism cliff that the makers of MIB might be feeling “R.I.P.D. off” by a film that perhaps shoulsd have been titled Dead Men in Black. Nonetheless, the film manages to establish a voice of its own and remains entertaining regardless of its lack of originality.
If Schwentke presses a little too insistently on the CGI throttle, sometimes veering into out-and-out-cartoon territory, he still depends for the film’s ultimate emotional spine on the bantering odd-couple relationship between responsible Reynolds and brusque Bridges – both actors effective, by the way, even though Reynolds stays on the bland side to balance out Bridges’ amusing sandwich of ham on wry.
So we’ll slay 2-1/2 stars out of 4 for a passable, comic book-inspired science-fiction action fantasy. R.I.P.D. can, it turns out, also stand for “Relax, It’s Pretty Diverting.”