Universal Pictures brings the Dark horse comic book to frenetic life on the big screen with a production that's often visually clever but, alas, breaks no new ground.
"R.I.P.D." -- which stands for "Rest in Peace Department" -- is part of the cosmic bureaucracy. You know, the one that keeps the universe running smoothly while spitting out occasional films, some good, like "Heaven Can Wait," and some not so good, like "The Adjustment Bureau." In this case, it's a precinct of cops from the Great Beyond who track down and dispatch souls that have managed to linger on Earth well beyond their appointed time.
When Boston cop Nick (Ryan Reynolds), a (mostly) good guy who flirts with the dark side, ends up dead during a police raid, it's at the hands of his own partner,Bobby (Kevin Bacon) -- a guy who brings new meaning to the phrase "police corruption." Nick ends up recruited to the R.I.P.D. and assigned to partner with Roy (Jeff Bridges), who has been rounding up lost souls for a long while now: He's the shade of a sheriff from the Wild West.
There's a planet-threatening plot, of course, as well as armies of "deados" (grotesque spirits in need of "cosmic erasure"), and a slinky overseer (played by Mary-Louise Parker), but the film's real energy comes from the cop-buddy-movie tropes and twists that Bridges and Ryan pull off. (The fact that living people see them as "avatars" -- Nick is an older Chinese man, and Roy a hot blonde bombshell -- provides still more chuckles.) Story-wise, this is a mashup of "Men In Black" and "Ghostbusters" (with some riffs and visual quotes from other films... including, erm, "Dr. Strangelove!"), and only director Robert Schwentke's visual style keeps the film from rigor mortis.
The Blu-ray / DVD combo release boasts a small raft of special features, including two "alternate openings," deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, "motion comics" (basically, crudely animated story boards... though done with the avatars, rather than Nick and Roy as they see each other, so you see scenes from the movie playing out in a very different manner), a few alternate takes on the movie's last scene, and a "Making Of" featurette that explores the process of translating the comic books into a major motion picture.
Another featurette, "Filming the other Side," takes an in-depth look at the mystic dimension where the R.I.P.D.'s finest operate. "Walking Among Us: Deados and Avatars" takes a peek behind the scenes of the movie's many CGI-created scenes of monsters and mayhem. "Anatomy of a Shootout" dissects a climactic rooftop showdown. It's all pretty standard stuff, but interesting from a technical vantage. Otherwise, this film's appeal is pretty limited to the Halloween season or, possibly, cult viewings... assuming "R.I.P.D." ever gains a cult following.
Blu-ray / DVD Combo Pack