Even with the goodwill a playful Jeff Bridges performance can supply (he riffs on his ornery True Grit character as another Wild West lawman out of joint), the deadening elements of this instantly forgettable action comedy pile up like unburied corpses. First comes handsome stiff Ryan Reynolds, the blandest of Hollywood leading men, who once again can’t animate an expensive production swirling around him. Given a backstory of a shady Boston cop worried about letting down his doting wife, Reynolds takes too quickly to the movie’s zany purgatorial afterlife; his partner in crime (Kevin Bacon) shoots him in the face and suddenly there’s a new job waiting as a ghostly flatfoot rounding up “deados.” (Count up at least four more pesky bodies: the credited writers behind a clichéd script that belongs on top of Will Smith’s reject pile, itself a scant stack given the evidence of After Earth.)
Tired byplay between Reynolds’s mystified straight man and Bridges’s supernatural old pro will kill off any fond memories you have of zesty buddy films past and present. Unique wrinkles—a subplot involving Indian food, mainly—are scarce. But who’s the cadaver really stinking up the joint? It has to be that of hack director Robert Schwentke, whose featureless competency with Ghostbusters-styled chases and weightless PG-13 mayhem comes to feel like a choking vice of blahness. It’s really something when much of Beantown comes crashing down in a hail of digitally rendered comic wreckage, yet you feel nothing. R.I.P.D. only has significance in today’s conversation about our summer of unfortunate wanna-be blockbusters (White House Down, The Lone Ranger, etc.). All bow too slavishly to the stale popcorn of yore; how about starting with a killer script instead?
Follow Joshua Rothkopf on Twitter: @joshrothkopf