"I take orders from the Octoboss."


a survey of summer movies that just didn’t catch on

July 19, 2013

Most art is derivative of something or other, but jesus christ is it uncomfortable how flagrant R.I.P.D. is about trying to repackage MEN IN BLACK. Instead of a secret government agency investigating aliens who secretly live among us it’s a secret police department investigating dead people who secretly live among us. But you got the younger guy recruited and learning about this real world beneath our sugar-coated topping and partnering with an older, grumpy guy and they have goofy ray gun looking guns and go around questioning weird informants who turn into crazy cartoon special effects creatures (though Rick Baker is retired, so they’re mostly digital). I swear RIPD even has a headquarters that looks like they built it over the set from MiB.

The young guy is Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds, BLADE TRINITY), in life a Boston PD detective betrayed by his partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon, ELEPHANT WHITE) over some kind of gold treasure they stole from a crime scene. Nick was having regrets and wanted out so Bobby shot him in the face during a raid. Instead of Heaven or Hell, Nick goes to RIPD to continue as a cop and help them round up “deados” who illegally stick around on Earth. Not really a noble calling, in my opinion.

He takes the job in hopes that he can see his wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak, IRON MAN THREE) and he snoops around and spies on her and tries to talk to her and also sees that she seems awfully close to his old partner and he has to learn that they are of different worlds and can no longer be together. So in that sense it’s exactly like SPAWN.

Nick and the audience learn that dead people can sometimes stay among the living, not as ghosts but just looking like normal people until they smell Indian food (?) and then they stretch out into weird, rotted monster guys. I think if I was a little kid I would’ve thought that was pretty cool, and that is the best thing I can say about this movie.

Nick’s new partner is Roycephus Pulsipher (Jeff Bridges, TRON LEGACY), a U.S. Marshal who died in the Old West. Bridges does the marble-mouthed Rooster Cogburn thing and laments having seen his skull fucked by a coyote. When Nick refers to him as a rebel he says “I fought for the North.” When Nick questions why he would eat hot dogs even though he doesn’t need food and can’t taste it, he says “I enjoy the mouth feel!”

There are occasional ideas I liked. One of the dead guy snitches they deal with (Mike O’Malley, SULLY) basically haunts Fenway Park because all he cares about is the Sox. Robert Knepper from HARD TARGET 2 also plays a so-called deado, as does Devin Ratray from BLUE RUIN and/or HOME ALONE.

Less fun is this SHALLOW HAL gimmick the filmatists seem way too confident about where we see them as Reynolds and Bridges but the living see them as James Hong (TALONS OF THE EAGLE) and Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue model Marisa Miller. To me it’s never funny and every time they go back to it it seems more painful. Ha ha, some guys sees hot-lady-Roycephus in the middle of a chase and they straighten their ties and it plays “Let’s Get It On” for a second. You get it because they think he’s a hot lady but he’s not a hot lady though he’s Jeff Bridges.

The creature effects are the movie’s most notable feature. These realistically textured, cartoonishly proportioned mo-cap grotesques bring to mind the effects in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA and, in fact, DEAD HEAT, the buddy-cop-undead-people movie you could argue it was indebted to more than the more commonly cited GHOSTBUSTERS. But they’re more off-putting because they’re computer generated and do not always move like real people – they leap around and flip and run up walls and shit. It’s gotta be an intentional choice to animate them like cartoon characters instead of trying to capture real motion. I respect that it’s different, but I don’t think it entirely works. They even have Bridges moving like a cartoon character when he swings on a rope in a big chase scene with a giant guy running up a building with his belly and buttcrack hanging out.

Dead guy parkour

I cannot recommend this picture. I’m not saying you’ll get nothing out of it, but I am saying you won’t get enough. And the MEN IN BLACKness really is beyond the pale. I mean it’s the brazenness, it’s how recent the movie series is that it’s ripping off, it’s also that, if you ask me, the real MEN IN BLACK is only an okay movie in the first place. I know many people hold it in higher regard than me but I don’t think anybody thinks “this style of movie is so perfect that I would love to see the exact same shit with just slight tweaks to everything to pretend like it counts as its own thing.”

Director Robert Schwentke had previously directed another mediocre movie based on a comic book that nobody I ever heard of ever heard of, RED. The screenplay is by Phil Hay & Matt Manfredini (THE TUXEDO, CLASH OF THE TITANS), story by those guys and David Dobkin (director of WEDDING CRASHERS and shit). So, I mean, this is not that much of a surprise I guess. The creator of the comic book, Peter M. Lenkov, is only credited as a producer and as creator of the source material, but he’s a screenwriter with a credit on a far better movie than this: DEMOLITION MAN. He also wrote UNIVERSAL SOLDIER II and III.

To promote the movie there was an animated short that aired on Adult Swim. It’s more like an animated trailer explaining the concept than an actual short.

There was also a video game, R.I.P.D.: The Game, released for Windows, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360.

It was not well received.

R.I.P.D. was considered a major flop, grossing more than $50 million less than its reported budget. In its opening weekend it got smashed by three other movies it opened against: THE CONJURING, TURBO and RED 2. Yes, R.I.P.D. was beaten by a different Ryan Reynolds movie where he plays a cartoon snail, and by the sequel to its own director’s previous not-great movie. (DESPICABLE ME, GROWN UPS 2 and PACIFIC RIM, all in their second or third weeks, also did better.)

Schwentke continued somewhat unfazed. He followed this with INSURGENT and its two sequels before somebody noticed that nobody has ever watched any of those movies so they pulled the plug on it and so far the world has been okay. Hay & Manfredini followed this with the much more financially successful mediocrity of RIDE ALONG 1, 2 and 3. They also snuck in one well reviewed low budget movie, Karyn Kusama’s THE INVITATION (having previously written AEON FLUX for the director).

Bridges followed this up with more weird, not warmly welcomed by viewers shit, THE GIVER and SEVENTH SON, before an Oscar nominated turn in HELL OR HIGH WATER. But I don’t think this failure was ever gonna hurt him. He’s Jeff Bridges. Everybody loves Jeff Bridges. Nobody blames him. He did what he could.

Reynolds might’ve been in more danger. He’d played comic book characters before, always running into walls. He was funny in BLADE TRINITY, and that was the end of the series. X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE wasn’t his fault, but what happened to his character (actually played by Scott Adkins post-transformation) was probly the most hated aspect. And then he was GREEN LANTERN. After this one crashed and burned too it could’ve been the end of it. Luckily he finally got his long-in-development DEADPOOL movie off the ground – complete with smartass first person narration like this one – and that was a giant hit, so now he can write his own checks.

So hopefully he’ll put that new clout behind getting them to make R.I.P.D. 2.

That’s a joke and if they do I reserve the right to sit that one out please thank you for your consideration.

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46 Responses to “R.I.P.D.”

  1. If it weren’t for Deadpool I was convinced Ryan Reynolds would never headline a major hit.

    BTW, confession time. I don’t think Deadpool was a good movie. I have a feeling the sequel will be way better.

  2. I never liked DEADPOOL either. But I am convinced the JOHN WICK-makers can help create a world I actually give a shit about next time.

    I am also hopeful for their HIGHLANDER reboot.

  3. It’s interesting, that the closer this series came to 2017, the more movies of it were ones, that I truly didn’t like. (If you remember: In the beginning I suggested to rename SUMMER FLINGS to SHIT CJ REALLY LIKES. Glad nobody ever listens to me.)

    I’m a huge sucker for the GHOSTBUSTERS/MIB concept. A group of weirdos busts non-human creatures. Never gets old, IMO. But this one is the worst I’ve seen so far. Even worse than PIXELS (Which actually 100% delivers on the spectacle, but fails as a comedy) or the GHOSTBUSTERS remake (Which isn’t the worst movie ever and despite what the internet said, nobody ever reached out of the screen to cut my dick off, but more than “Nah, it was watchable” can’t be said about it).

    For some reason the biggest disappointment was that Robert Knepper, who I’m a huge fan of since PRISON BREAK and who is totally killing it with Jim Belushi on the new TWIN PEAKS, has only a cameo. His scene was displayed prominently in the trailer, so I was hoping for him to be at least the #1 henchman or something like that.

    I most likely mentioned it here earlier, but in the early 00s, Schwentke was considered Germany’s new shooting star director, thanks to TATTOO (Which was just another SESEVENEN rip-off, but it’s very rare to have such a movie made in Germany) and his testicular cancer dramedy EIERDIEBE. Then FLIGHTPLAN came out and everybody was still hopeful, that “we” finally get another one in Hollywood, but from then on it went only downhill and from what I just read, he is back in Germany and his Nazi drama (Which is the opposite of TATTOO, because making one is more or less the easiest way to get your movie financed here.) DER HAUPTMANN premieres next week at TIFF.

    But back to R.I.P.D.: Really the best thing I can say about it is that Jeff Bridges was most likely having the most fun while shooting that movie and that Mary-Louise Parker was damn hot in it.

  4. when i saw a poster for this in 2013 i recall being very sure, like to the point I didn’t even give it a second thought, that this was some misguided Apatovian cop comedy about bro-y policemen in Rhode Island. had i known its true plot i wouldnt have seen it anyway though.

    sounds like they could have really gone all out with the off-ripping and included Wild Wild West’s immortal line “I’M NOT A LADY, I’M A U.S. MARSHALL” at an opportune moment, but i guess MiB was all they were interested in pilfering from.

  5. Interesting. Back in ’13 the girlfriend and me figured that if this movie was going to be bad, at least it was going to be ‘good bad’. As Vern concludes, it is simply ‘bad bad’, which is the worst kind of bad. I picked up the blu ray for next tot nothing, but I still want it out of my house.

  6. Wow, you actually found a summer fling even I didn’t see.

    Is it just me, or is there something much more joyless about the more modern (last 10 years) summer flings?

  7. Yeah, I refuse to believe the internet meme that “movies these days are not as good as they used to be”, but it seems like at least the bad big budget movies truly became worse in the 21st century. 20 years ago R.I.P.D. would’ve maybe been a goofy, fun, little timewaster.

  8. This is exactly the sort of thing where I just wonder… “how did they manage to not make this fun?” I don’t need it to be original. I don’t even need it to be funny. But with all the money on Earth and at least one inherently likable star, how is it possible that you can’t make 96 minutes entertaining with this concept?

    I mean, “supernatural cops fight weird-looking overdesigned ghost monsters” is just such an amazingly difficult concept to fuck up. Seems like all you’d have to do is actually put that premise on-screen, and I would be automatically entertained. Since it seems like that’s somehow not the case, I can only guess that this must be another example where with so much money on the line, too many producers wrote too many notes and had the thing rewritten again and again until it became convoluted gibberish which turns a simple pleasure into a overexplained chore where none of the pieces seem to fit together right. Because other than that, I simply can’t figure out how this isn’t at least dumb fun.

  9. I saw this one at a free screening. There were about three times where I seriously thought about getting up and leaving. I NEVER want to leave a movie, not fair to the artisans who made it. This one begged me to leave however. Unfortunately I had to give my aunt and sister a ride back home so I couldn’t leave. They loved it btw thus cementing theory that this was a really bad movie. There was only one movie I thought about getting up and leaving while watching since.

  10. Also this movie cemented my silly hate of Ryan Reynolds and that he was a shit actor who made the garbage he was in even worse. Funnily it took him starring in a comic book movie of a comic/character I also really hate to finally make me give him a chance again.

  11. I read the comic in college. Some cool ideas, but even that felt derivative of MiB (which was also based on a comic).

  12. By the way, Robert Knepper KILLED it in Twin Peaks this summer. So funny.

  13. MEN IN BLACK occupies a special place in my heart for a variety of reasons, not the least of which being I was 16 when I saw it making it the first movie I could drive myself to go see.

    The MIB rip-off nature of R.I.P.D. was apparently from the trailers and tv spots. I don’t get offended by much, but the flagrant copying crossed a line. Normally I have a soft spot for dumb, effects-heavy sci-fi comedies (EVOLUTION, MYSTERY MEN, etc) but I refuse to see this one. It’d be like taking a young man’s independence away.

  14. Red wasn’t that bad.

  15. Eh. I didn’t hate it. The part where time stops as he gets pulled up to heaven or whatever was pretty cool. I can see why they put it in all the trailers.

    Hey Vern, wasn’t MEN IN BLACK your first review? You should do a retrospective.

  16. I never much cared for Men in Black either.

    You know what my problem with Deadpool was is that they took an action sequence that would be, maybe, 30 minutes of a movie and stretched it out to 90 mins with nothing but flashbacks. Didn’t help they showed everything action related in the trailers.

  17. The only thing I have to add is not about this movie but the year it came out in (2013)

    We were talking in the Michael Jackson “Remember The Time” review about the bleak situation of the present day and we’ll 2013 sticks out in my memory as a real “calm before the storm” year before everything started getting crazy in 2014.

    It’s the most recent year that already has a nostalgic glow for me.

  18. For me the movies got less fun as this series went on, but I don’t think that’s necessarily a sign of movies getting worse. Some of the earlier ones, like DICK TRACY and THE ROCKETEER, I had seen before, but had not reviewed or seen in a while, which would be less likely with recent summers. And also some of them have an added appeal from being old and different from how movies are made now. For all I know ten or fifteen years from now the modern special effects of RIPD and BATTLESHIP will have an old school charm to them that makes the movies more enjoyable overall.

  19. I think Vern needs to go all Michael Apted and review the same set up movies from a particular year every 7 years.

  20. I’ve tried to watch this 3 or 4 times but just can’t make it through. I think it’s the worst of the Summer Flings by far (so far).

  21. Stephen Colbert had a lot of fun interviewing Ryan Reynolds for this movie. He basically kept asking him leading questions to get him to admit the whole thing was a big ripoff, “So…you play a couple of men who BUST GHOSTS?”

  22. I know this is a very “that guy” thing to say, but I did enjoy this more than the MIB sequels. I’m still amazed how many people (including Paul Thomas Anderson!) seem to rate the third one.

    Not that this was great. In addition to being unoriginal and kind of bland, I recall a pretty awful bit where Bacon did some clunky ADR over some footage to explain some mystical power he suddenly had.

  23. The thing to remember about movies like this is to watch them with the kids (if you don’t have any the streets are full of them). The young ones don’t care about all the stuff that bothers us. They just want to be entertained for 90 minutes. And that attitude is infectious.

  24. MIB III was hot garbage. So don’t worry Pacman you’re not alone. I never understood the love for that either. Just because it’s not MIB 2 level trash doesn’t mean it wasn’t trash. The original was the only decent one.

    I saw like the last 30 minutes of this on FX. Generic central but seeing Bridges rechannel Rooster Cogburn every other moment warranted some chuckles.

  25. I too was shocked at the passes MIBIII got. MIIB was bad but I think I might dislike III more. Both are horrible but probably better than RIPD still. The best thing to come out of the MIB sequels were it made me re-evaluate WILD WILD WEST. Still have a fondness for the first MIB though.

  26. Only thing that stuck with me from MIIB was that it was the last time I found Donna Hayward herself Lara Flynn Boyle attractive. Now a days she looks like something straight out of the black lodge or a Men In Black movie.

  27. I enjoyed Josh brolin as Tommy lee Jones, but remember nothing else of MIIIIB

  28. I’m really surprised how much hate the MIB movies get here. I agree that they are not perfect homeruns of high concept big budget Hollywood entertainment (more like “seriously well made entertainment that even holds up on repeated viewing and it’s very obvious why it caught on like it did”), but y’all act like it’s GHOULIES or shit like that! Even part 2, with all its problems (surprisingly crappy FX, the retcon of the emotional ending of part 1, an anticlimactic ending that was hastily reshot after 9/11, a boring villain), beats a lot of much more liked movies IMO.

  29. They´re okay. Those I´ve seen anyway. Never seen part 2 and avoided it or at least not actively gone out of my way to see it. They just don´t have much in terms of staying power. It´s like the franchise uses a particular form of the mind wipe ( or whatever it is called in the films) in which what you´ve just seen dissipates quickly from your mind

  30. MIIIIB had the same problem the ’80s DRAGNET movie problem, it seems to have been greenlit entirely on the basis of a beloved actor (Dan Akroyd/Josh Brolin) being able to do a really good impersonation of another beloved actor.

  31. I suppose it’s possible the recent CGI IP movies will seem quaint and nostalgic one day but I have a feeling they won’t. I think a big reason a lot of the ’90s flings were still fun is that they were fairly good movies, or at least had good qualities, but got drowned out by the bigger films of their summers. Even The Flintstones wasn’t that funny, but they still really looked like a live-action Flintstones.

    Now there’s so much noise every weekend, it’s not even like they’re trying to entertain but got drowned out. What I’m saying is the intentions have changed. It’s not “let’s see if steampunk western is as cool as Will Smith fighting aliens.” It’s, “Here’s an obscure comic nobody’s heard of, and we’ll do it completely differently so that even the fans hate it.” I guess Spawn was like that too sort of. Or “here’s a board game but we’re not going to make it too crazy, that would be absurd.”

    I liked MIIIB but I haven’t seen it since. I think it was “Will Smith needs a hit again” and that was the first one ready to go. He was game for ID4ever if they’d waited, and he’s been willing to do Bad Boys 3 but they can never seem to get it going. I just hope he takes the time to notice all the collateral beauty. There’s collateral beauty everywhere. Collateral beauty.



  32. I don’t see a problem with Dragnet.

  33. Fred I might be crazy but I kinda loved Collateral Beauty. It’s such a strong, “Why didn’t anyone think of this before?” concept, it’s too bad the execution’s a little sloppy. A few rewrites and a less off-putting title might not have made it a classic, but maybe it would have at least been a Mr. Destiny-style modern fairy tale crowdpleaser. I don’t really know why people hate it so much – I mean Smith, Kate Winslet, Edward Norton, Michael Pena, Helen Mirren and Keira Knightley aren’t idiots, it’s not like they would all sign up to be in the worst movie ever.

    Btw, after watching and enjoying both Collateral Beauty and Freeheld recently on HBO, I thought maybe one of these days Vern could do a sequel to his Summer Flings series with Winter Flings, i.e. failed Oscar Bait Movies. There’s a different but possibly worse stigma attached to movies that seem positioned to win Oscars but end up being shut out and critically panned. Watching them divorced from the positive or negative hype and as a kind of underdog (like the Summer Flings series) might make for some great reviews (I know Billy Lynn’s Halftime Walk and Birth of a Nation will be fascinating to watch now instead of last year, for instance)

  34. DRAGNET is a perfectly acceptable 80’s comedy and I won’t hear any different. It’s also the best “let’s remake a beloved show of the past and make it more funny” tv-to-film adaptation I can think of, as epitomized most recently by BAYWATCH. Casting Harry Morgan as the character from the show was a genius move, plus it gave the film more credibility.

    I liked MIB 3 much better than the 2nd sequel, which had a few things going for it but largely felt like a cash-in. Maybe 3 was as well, but it arguably had more heart than maybe both previous movies combined.

    I’d like to see Vern review more classic movies (still waiting for APOCALYPSE NOW), and focus on certain filmmakers like he has with Michael Mann lately.

  35. Yup, DRAGNET us good fun.

    I still have yet to see MIB3 however I think the second one, while no means great or even very good, is still a decent time waster, I mean it’s watchable and Lara Flynn Boyle looks hot in her lingerie (I also like how they ripped off the idea wholesale from CRITTERS 2)

  36. The idea of an alien morphing into a hot woman after finding a magazine on the ground, to be clear.

  37. I actually used to watch DRAGNET and BACHELOR PARTY as a kid quite a lot. JOE VERSUS THE VOLCANO, THE BURBS, BIG & TURNER & HOOCH as well. The latter co-starring our beloved Al Powell himself; Reginald Veljohnson. To me Tom Hanks will always be a funny motherfucker first no matter what role he does. I actually have used the name Pep Strebeck at actual social functions where I didn’t want people to really know my name. To me that movie will always be a personal classic. Plus I can’t really hate on something that gave us the DRAGNET rap.

  38. I loved DRAGNET and BACHELOR PARTY as a kid too, they used to play on TV all the time.

  39. I’d love to see Vern tackle classic movies too, especially since he’s good at tying in social and economic issues going on today.

    I’d also like to see him review more DTV movies like he used to. There are more than just Scott Adkins movies out there that are worth your time Vern. Don’t shun DTV movies anymore.

  40. Failed Oscar bait would be very interesting indeed.

    Neal, Collateral Beauty just wasn’t as crazy as I hoped it would be. I mean, if you’re going to do that premise, go all in. And yes, I mock what a stretch it was to explain what collateral beauty is.

  41. There are few things worse in movies than something that winds up taking an interesting concept and makes it middling and mediocre.

  42. For the record I wasn’t putting DRAGNET on the same quality-level as MIIIB, I’d never insult another movie like that (well most movies). I’m not sure DRAGNET comes together completely as a movie but it was a lot little things in it I like. Probably due for a rewatch on that one and there is a good chance I’ll like it more than when I did last time.

    I second the Failed Oscar Bait series suggestion. Though I can’t imagine it would be as “fun” as the Summer Flings and other series Vern has done.

    Fred: It ‘seems’ more than ever now the big spectacles went from what you said ‘Lets do this and see if it works!’ to ‘Here’s this thing you’ve heard of (or maybe have heard of) will you give us your money for no other reason than you heard of it?’

  43. I’ve always thought MIIB blew it in the ending. The emotional beat that would have made sense to me would have been if Smith saved them himself and discovered he didn’t need Jones after all. His character comes into his own, and realizes he has what it takes to replace Jones’s character for real. Jones can be proud of him.

  44. Geoffreyjar, exactly right. It’s the difference between trying to get our attention and taking it for granted.

  45. I need a SEVENTH SON review now! I was pleasantly surprised by that one. A perfect example of a not-that-bad! Sword & Sorcery B-movie that blows away 13 year old minds.

  46. I need a SEVENTH SON review now! I was pleasantly surprised by that one. A perfect example of a not-that-bad! Sword & Sorcery B-movie that blows away 13 year old minds.

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