Oh, he strives to meet his usual standards of ebullience and savvy physicality to imbue this role of an otherworldly cop with attention-getting dynamism. But the film is so cluttered with overly familiar CG effects and, to be honest, his character so one note-ish that you tune the film — and Bridges — out almost immediately.
Whatever were the Universal execs thinking when they green lit this mega-expensive turkey?
Even the concept is a head-scratcher. It’s based on a series of graphic novels by Peter M. Lenkow (“24,” “CSI: NY” and “Hawaii Five-0”) that possibly made more sense in print.
The R.I.P.D. or Rest in Peace Department — that name being the only clever thing about the movie — are deceased cops placed back in earth to arrest or shoot other dead people who resist “final judgment.”
Questions immediately arise: How exactly do people resist dying? What contorted metaphysics allows dead cops to come back to earth to shoot and kill dead criminals a second time? Isn’t that double jeopardy?
Assuming you can get past these points and accept the universe of this story, the buddy-film bickering between two R.I.P.D. partners, Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, a rookie on his first assignment, is like every buddy-cop movie you’ve seen only without a spark of life (you should excuse the expression).
Reynolds’ police training while human does him no good in fighting monstrous souls hiding among the living. Bridges, playing a Wild West sheriff who died sometime after the Civil War, seems perpetually annoyed about this.
(Wouldn’t a properly run afterlife department have a training camp for newly deceased law enforcement officers rather than throw them into a save-the-world scenario their first day?)
The convoluted but never interesting story, written by David Dobkins, Phil Hay and Matt Manfred, combines element of “Ghostbusters,” “Men in Black” and “Ghost.” Reynolds plays a Boston cop, Nick Walker, killed by his partner, Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon), during a drug bust.
While the villainous Bobby is left to comfort Nick’s bereaved widow (French actress Stephanie Szostak), Bobby finds himself sucked up a funnel-like vortex into the heavens and his next life as a R.I.P.D. cop.
Department head Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) immediately assigns him to Bridges’ Roy Pulsifer, who maintains certain aspects of cowboy couture in his costuming and speaks in the deep-throated growl he perfected in “True Grit.”
When they journey down to earth by means of of the R.I.P.D. lavatory — don’t ask — earthlings see not their old human selves but rather avatars. In Nick’s case he looks like an elderly Chinese gentleman (played by James Hong). In Roy’s, he’s a hot blonde babe (played fleetingly by supermodel Marisa Miller, seen at left).
When exposed to food or even salt, dead felons masquerading as humans turn into hideous humanoid monsters courtesy of what, by today’s standards, is pretty banal CGI. They seemingly have superhuman abilities and strengths (as do the R.I.P.D. cops) but their fighting skills and ultimate goals remain fuzzy.
Robert Schwentke’s direction fails to clarity any of this as the movie is given over to effects, stunts and CGi from the get-go. While going for jokiness in just about every instance, the movie gets few laughs amid mindless destruction and mediocre combat sequences.
About all that can be salvaged from this debacle is the performance by Mary-Louise Parker. Indeed she has achieved the dubious feat of delivering stellar performances in two spectacularly bland action films opening the same day, “Red 2” and this one.
Unlike everyone else, she underplays her line readings and gives nice comic twists at the end of each delivery. She remains calm and collected amid the chaos while refusing to take any of the nonsense seriously.
Will someone please make Parker a superhero in her next outing?
Opens: July 19, 2013 (Universal Pictures)
Production companies: An Original Film/Dark Horse Entertainment production
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, Kevin Bacon, Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Szostak, James Hong, Marisa Miller, Robert Knepper, Mike O’Malley, Devin Ratray
Director: Robert Schwentke
Screenwriters: Phil Hay & Matt Manfredi
Story by: David Dobkins & Phil Hay & Matt Manfred
Bassed on the Dark Horse Comic created by: Peter M. Lenkov
Producers: Neal H. Moritz, Mike Richardson, Michael Fottrell
Executive producers: Ori Marmur, Ryan Reynolds, Jonathon Komack Martin, David Dobkin, Keith Goldberg, Peter M. Lenkov
Director of photography: Alwin Küchler,
Production designer: Alec Hammond
Music: Christophe Beck
Costume designer: Susan Lyall
Editor: Mark Helfrich
PG-13 rating, 96 minutes