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Article by Teddy Durgin

R.I.P.D. Is Just OK

Every once in a while, certain actors get christened as "the new somebody-somebody." When Russell Crowe first hit around the time of "L.A. Confidential," he was "the new Marlon Brando." When Matthew McConaughey nabbed the lead role in "A Time to Kill," several publications heralded him as "the new Paul Newman." If Ryan Reynolds isn't careful, he's going to turn into "the new Ben Affleck... circa 1998 to 2004." The man has appeared in a lot of disposable Tinseltown product in the last few years. He hasn't quite reached the Affleckian lows of "Gigli," "Surviving Christmas," and "Jersey Girl," but he has fallen into that trap of being "Bland, Generic Hollywood Leading Man." Like Affleck was in his Daredevil/Jack Ryan years, Reynolds has become the go-to, second-string lead when Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise and Robert Downey Jr. pass on projects. He should have passed on his latest film, the big-budget supernatural buddy cop flick "R.I.P.D." Why? Because the movie would have been better off without him. Every buddy flick sorely needs both the buddies to be distinct personalities... distinctly mismatched personalities, that is. The film is drawing comparisons to "Men in Black." Well, that film worked because Tommy Lee Jones was SO Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith was SO Will Smith. It was interesting to see their two personas play off each other. In "R.I.P.D." - about deceased cops teaming up to apprehend evil souls who have escaped Judgment and fled back to Earth - Jeff Bridges came to play as one-half of the buddy team. He is awesome as Roy, an 1800s Old West lawman that effortlessly melds Bridges' "True Grit" and "Big Lebowski" characters into something hilarious and distinct. Ryan Reynolds? He's Nick, a cop from today. He has a wife. He's tall, good-looking. He... zzzzzzzzz. It's too bad, because "R.I.P.D." definitely has its moments of wit and fun. It's derivative, escapist fluff with the souls of "Men in Black," "Ghost" and "Ghostbusters" possessing the script throughout. But if you are a Bridges fan, I could almost recommend this film on his performance alone. Mary Louise Parker is also quite funny in what is essentially the Rip Torn role here, head of the Rest in Peace Department. And Kevin Bacon again makes for a slimy villain, playing a crooked cop with an agenda that fits in nicely with the main plot of dark forces looking to literally unleash Hell on Earth. I just spent too much of this flick wishing it was better. There are some truly shoddy visual effects throughout, with extremely cartoony digital characters running rampant on the very real streets of Boston. Never once is it believable in this flick when Bridges and Reynolds get into gun battles with these digital "Dead-o's." The film also misses some golden opportunities for humor, with the rules of the R.I.P.D. requiring Roy and Nick to take on new human-form avatars whenever they return to Earth on their missions. Roy appears as hot model Marissa Miller, and Nick appears as 80-something character actor James Hong. The bits involving THIS mismatched pair work and work really well. Unfortunately, they are very few and far between as we continue to see Bridges and Reynolds for most of the screen time (although watching burly workmen ogle and wolf-whistle Bridges in full Western get-up as he walks by is one of the year's funnier images). But for a studio dump job (a late July release with no formal critics' screenings), I have to say that "R.I.P.D." was MUCH better than I thought it would be. My final take? Wait for this flick's Afterlife on DVD/pay-per-view.

"R.I.P.D." is rated PG-13 for violence, sci-fi/fantasy action, some sensuality and language including sexual references.


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