Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's Like NyQuil in Movie Form, With Zombies (RIPD)

Sometimes you're watching a movie (months after it came out because you couldn't be bothered to see it in the theaters), and you ask yourself, "Really? I mean, really? Did they really think this was going to work?"

And then you realize that they did. Either that, or the entire film was a Producers-esque scam to not have to pay taxes and hey I think I might know what happened here.

In case you didn't read the title above, today we're talking about RIPD, which I have finally seen, and which I now understand why it's okay that I waited this long to see. It's not a terrible movie, exactly. It has funny moments, and it's not horribly offensive most of the time (sadly, though, only mostly). What it is, is ludicrous. Weird. And not in the good way. The kind of movie that sounds really fun on paper, but surely someone must have looked at somewhere in the actual filmmaking process and thought, "Man, this is crappy."

I cannot be the only person who thought this.

Based on the reasonably popular comic series R.I.P.D., the movie is about a group of dead cops who police the living world, making sure that dead souls, or deados, that have lingered past their time go off to face judgment. Our hero is Nick (Ryan Reynolds), a dirty cop whose turn of heart and desire to turn in his ill-gotten gold gets him killed by his partner, Kevin Bacon. Kevin Bacon's character has a name, I'm sure, but let's be real. I have no idea what that name is. He's just Kevin Bacon.

Because Nick is a dirty cop, he doesn't go off to face judgment when he dies, instead being pulled out of the heavenly tunnel and plunked down in the Rest In Piece Department. The Proctor (Mary Louise Parker) gives it to him straight. Either Nick joins on with the RIPD and helps them catch deados for the next hundred years or so, or she sends him back to meet his fate, and she's pretty sure it isn't a nice one. Nick takes the deal.

He then meets his new partner, Roy (Jeff Bridges), a veteran of the force who died back in the Old West and whose speech is annoyingly spangled with cowboy-slang. It's funny at first, but then it's just annoying. Roy thinks Nick is a stupid rookie, and Nick thinks Roy is an old weirdo. Comedy gold!

On their first case back down on Earth, after Nick tries to talk to his wife at his own funeral (only to find that, as in Dead Like Me, he no longer looks like himself and instead resembles an elderly Chinese man), Nick and Roy arrest a deado who is trying desperately to hide some gold. Nick thinks something is up. Roy disagrees. Nick decides to investigate. Roy bitches. But, fortunately for Nick, they find something important. The gold involved is actually part of an ancient ritual that would send the dead back to Earth, effectively ending the world for the living. Oh, and Kevin Bacon is a deado. That's why he killed Nick.

So now our heroes have to save the world, using only their abilities at slapstick combat and basic cop skills, all while Nick tries desperately to contact his increasingly creeped-out wife, and Roy bitches about everything everywhere.

Spoiler alert: they save the world. It's okay. Not very climactic, but it happens. Nick gets some closure with his wife, the Proctor and Roy finally realize some of their incredibly wooden sexual tension, and Kevin Bacon gets vaporized. Cheers all around.

Like I said, it's not a terrible movie, per se, it's just not very good. It's not particularly funny or engaging or emotionally arresting or action-packed or weird. It's surprisingly bland, considering the subject matter, and I think that's the real problem here. For a movie with such an out-there premise, the story we get is the most generic possible tale. Deados are obviously evil with no real discernible motives, and therefore they want to end the world. Kevin Bacon is a deado because why the hell not? And he wants to be the deado Moses because again, why the hell not?

No one has a strong motivation for anything they do, really, and the use of deados as a morally unambiguous villain, who are both evil and also ugly, is just kind of lazy. And also insulting. I thought we were trying to get past that whole traditional physical attractiveness is directly linked to moral rectitude thing. I hate that thing. It's an annoying thing.

Anyway, the big problem with the movie is that no matter how wacky or witty or weird it is, it fails to connect on an emotional level. Not sure if this is because Ryan Reynolds is having trouble holding it together here, but whatever the reason, I just don't care about Nick. He's bland and kind of a jerk, and not nearly compelling enough for me to care that he hasn't gotten closure with his wife. Mostly I just wish he'd leave her the hell alone and let her get on with her life.

Also, the film has a fair number of problems with sexism, first among them being the fact that Nick's continuing pursuit of his wife, and minor assault of her, is supposed to draw our sympathy. We're supposed to be heartbroken that he just can't reach her. Meanwhile, from his wife's perspective, not only has her husband died and then she found out he was a dirty cop (which he was), now there's an old man stalking her and touching her face at inappropriate times. I would be carrying mace by the bucketload right now. Or possibly moving to another city.

This isn't the only problem, sadly. A running gag in the film involves the RIPD officer's meatsuits, or the bodies that they appear as on Earth. Like I said above, Nick appears as an elderly East Asian man, played to perfection by James Hong, and for the most part, that bit works. It's funny because you see an old man getting hit by a car and then jumping up brandishing a banana (instead of a gun). 

Roy's avatar, however, is more of an issue. He appears as an incredibly attractive woman (played by Marisa Miller), and literally every joke about their avatars is followed by a long pan up her body, or a shot of people ogling her, or someone accidentally saying boobs around her. It's like there is absolutely nothing else noticeable about his avatar than that she is attractive. That's it. That's the whole joke.

It's not a very funny joke.

But really, the sexism in the film was almost expected. It's a film so bland and pandering that I would have been baffled for them not to include a couple of boob jokes. It's just that kind of movie. Which I think is probably the most ringing condemnation I can make. It's not even good enough for its sexism to be interesting. It's just there.

I think that makes me even sadder than the alternative. I mean, how sad do you have to be to not even be able to offend me properly?


  1. There was one part in the movie that really pissed me off. Roy confessed to Nick that he stayed watching his physical body after he died and saw a cow have sex with his head. It's disgusting and horrific to imagine and he was obviously bringing it up as a way to say that being a spirit and cutting ties with his old life wasn't exactly easy on him either. But Nick was still mad at him and instead of feeling sympathy for Roy, said that he hoped the cow had sex with both eye sockets. Seriously, Nick? You're really going to tell someone that watched with helplessness and horror as an animal had sex with his decomposing skull that you hope that he got raped in the face like that?

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