Brimming with wildly fantastic CGI marvels, extravagantly sensational action sequences that'll have eyeballs popping out viewers' heads, and a dazzling host of colorful characters, 'R.I.P.D.' should be the sort of summer blockbuster moviegoers flock to. Instead, it's dead on arrival without the possibility of resurrection, meaning it'll likely be forgotten in the coming years if not months. Producers probably should have left the idea to rest in peace rather than give it life in a production that's greatly lacking. It's a bizarre but admittedly imaginative blend of 'Ghostbusters' meets 'Men in Black' with heavy dabs of the supernatural, dashes of the western and a pinch of sci-fi, a blend that ultimately falls flat.
Very loosely based on the comic by Peter M. Lenkov ('Demolition Man'), the script by Matt Manfredi and Phil Hay (the same tag-team that brought us such gems as 'Clash of the Titans,' 'Æon Flux,' and 'The Tuxedo') is a joyless, comatose mess kept alive by a life-support system of movie wizardry and heavily medicated on CG-spectacles that only make one feel woozy and light-headed rather than better. The filmmakers inject the story with a series of excitedly over-the-top jokes, puns, and lots of visual gags, almost to the point of overdose. Yet, the entire movie lacks humor or a witty spirit, failing to muster a single laugh but earning plenty of Liz Lemon-style eye rolls. If this is what we can expect in the afterlife, then I want my ticket to hell now, because this film must be its precursor.
Much of the problem with 'R.I.P.D.' (jeez, typing the title is annoying in itself) is the rather soulless and predominantly unexpressive Ryan Reynolds, who looks as if he's breezing through the role completely bored out of his mind. The generally reliable actor spends much of his time staring at action occurring around him with an uninterested gaze, as if he's confused about the reasons he agreed to be in this. In the few moments in which he suddenly wakes up and shows mild interest, it feels as if he's reminded that he signed on because the paycheck was good. His usually lively personality and impeccable comedic timing are missing entirely, walking from one scene to the next in a lifeless daze, making the character quite unlikeable. Even the attempt at having Reynolds' Nick Walker be a crooked cop with a heart and a loving wife (Stephanie Szostak) does little to improve the actor's noticeably stale and listless performance.
The only light at the end of this dank, dark tunnel is Jeff Bridges doing a mix of Jeff "the Dude" Lebowski and Rooster Cogburn as Nick's new partner, Roycephus Pulsipher. Showing him the ropes in the afterlife police force, such as how to expose "deados" (the dead trying to evade final judgment) with threats of Indian food, Bridges's surly, old-timey U.S. Marshal is a hoot, excited at the sight of ankles and sometimes incoherently grumbling moans about his physical death. He has just reason for hating those darn coyotes. The character serves as blatant comic relief but feels more like the main attraction, yet he's relegated to sidekick duties once the MacGuffin is introduced — something to do with the Staff of Ra, ur, I mean, Jericho and the dead walking the Earth.
Director Robert Schwentke ('Flightplan,' 'Red') does what he can with the material, like getting the best from Bridges, but also delivers a good chunk of the action and the story's most dazzling moments with little sense of purpose or urgency. The screen is a flurry and commotion of dazzling effects that ideally should excite and thrill, but much of it feels like a waste of energy because we don't care a lick for any of the characters, except for the wily Roy. Other than Reynolds' vapidly dry presence, we suffer an emotionless Mary-Louise Parker as useless commanding officer Proctor and Kevin Bacon is nothing more than dead weight. 'R.I.P.D.' imagines itself a high-concept buddy-cop fantasy, but in the end, it's a squandered breath of life that died upon conception. What we're witnessing is its ghost making a loud, obnoxious ruckus and effectively scaring us away.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'R.I.P.D' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with an UltraViolet Digital Copy. The Region Free, BD-50 disc sits comfortably opposite a DVD-9, and both come inside a blue, eco-elite case with a shiny, glossy slipcover. After a few skippable trailers, viewers are taken to a menu with full-motion clips and music.
'R.I.P.D.' debuts unto Blu-ray with a first-rate 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode that often amazes with a variety of highly-detailed scenes. Shot digitally, the freshly-minted transfer reveals the tiniest wrinkles in Jeff Bridges' aging face and exposes every pore on Ryan Reynolds' mug. Mary-Louise Parker, of course, looks flawless, but a couple negligible blemishes are apparent, especially in close-up. Every hair and whisker on various characters is razor-sharp, and fine lines in buildings, clothing and furniture are distinct. However, I also detected a smidge of aliasing around a couple objects here and there, a few scenes seem suspect of artificial sharpening, and some sequences are a tad softer than others.
Presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, the video comes with a varied and full-bodied color palette. Primaries are quite energetic, adding to the movie's comedic feel, while secondary hues are very bold with plenty of warmth. Contrast is generally spot-on and well balanced, but in several moments the highlights run a bit hotter than normal, which tend to clip the whites in a few spots. Black levels could be much stronger as they are, for the most part, pretty dull and lackluster, creating a largely flat image with average delineation in the shadows. The high-def transfer is not a complete loss, but it falls short of perfection.
On the audio side of things, the supernatural comedy arrives with a highly enjoyable and often immersive DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. The surround speakers are often quite active and bustling with the noise of the city, the chatter of a crowd or the hurried pace of a busy afterlife police station. Many of the quieter scenes come with some mild effects for ambience, but the action sequences are the real showstoppers, as a diverse assortment of sounds spread all around and envelope the listener with discrete directionality. Debris from explosions spread overhead, bullets whiz by discrete from the front to the back of the room and helicopters circle the room with flawless panning.
In the fronts, imaging is a broad wall of sound, aided by the engaging score of Christophe Beck, which spreads evenly across the entire soundstage. Channel separation is incredibly well-balanced, as activity moves from one side of the screen to the other smoothly, and dialogue reproduction remains crystal-clear and precise in the center. The mid-range is not hugely impressive or exceptionally dynamic, but it's detailed and distinct, allowing for every clang, pop and crack to be perfectly heard. The low-end is probably the most disappointing aspect because it often seems lacking compared to the action on screen. There's still plenty of bass to give the scenes a bit of oomph and weight, but it also seems pretty mild and tamed. Nevertheless, many find it quite exciting.
Very loosely based on the comic by Peter M. Lenkov, 'R.I.P.D.' is brimming with wildly fantastic CGI marvels, sensational action sequences, and a dazzling host of colorful characters. Unfortunately, the supernatural buddy-cop fantasy is a joyless, comatose mess with leaden performances from Reynolds, Parker, and Bacon, leaving Bridges to carry the movie as the story's only highlight. The film debuts on Blu-ray with excellent picture quality and a great demo-worthy audio presentation. Universal provides a decent but small assortment of supplements, most of which are exclusive to the format, yet the overall package is ultimately a rental at best.