'R.I.P.D.' IS D.O.A.


     Ryan Reynolds, Mary-Louise Parker, Jeff Bridges in "R.I.P.D."

For Hicksflicks.com, July 26, 2013

Back in the 1980s and '90s when I was reviewing movies in earnest, I often took my two-week vacation during the last half of August. This was when the studios opened their worst movies — the worst of the summer, the worst of the year — and many of them were not screened in advance for critic reviews. And if they were still playing when I returned (not always the case in those days) I would seek them out and review them late. And they were almost always turkeys.

These days, bad movies open year-round; there's no rhyme or reason. But one of the chief indicators that a bomb is in the offing remains the same: no advance screenings for critics, no reviews on opening day. So the suckers … er, moviegoers … are on their own.

When "R.I.P.D." opened last Friday, my wife and I were on a weeklong, unplugged road trip, so we had read nothing about it. And on Monday, looking for something to do late that night, we checked out a movie theater that was less than a block from our hotel. As it happened, we arrived just in time for the last showing of the last movie of the night. That's right, "R.I.P.D." And it brought back a flood of memories of returning from those late-August vacations to the worst possible movies.

But this one stars Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds. Really, how bad could it be? Very bad. Possibly a career nadir for both stars. And that's saying something for the guys who starred in "Heaven's Gate" and "Green Lantern," respectively.

A sort of cross between "Men in Black" and the TV series "Supernatural," "R.I.P.D." has Reynolds as a dirty cop who is killed by his dirtier partner (Kevin Bacon) and in death is paired with a lawman from the Old West (Bridges) to rid the world of dead people masquerading as the living. Or something like that.

And the special effects are all about various characters bouncing off of walls and falling off of walls and bouncing from the ground back up to the walls. ... In fact, this may be the most cartoony live-action movie since "The Villain," a 1979 comedy Western with Kirk Douglas as the bad guy in black and Arnold Schwarzenegger as the good guy in white (powder-blue, actually), which was deliberately patterned after "Road Runner" cartoons. Literally; no joke.

Whether "R.I.P.D." is literally patterned after the "Road Runner" or any other Warner Bros. cartoons is up for debate ... but it could be. Like those cartoons, it's wacky and off-the-wall and bizarre. But unlike those cartoons, it's not at all funny.