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Why R.I.P.D. and Its Awesome Cast Deserve a Second Lease on Life

Sometimes Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds, and a silly sci-fi setup are all you really need.

By Benjamin Bullard
Roicephus (Jeff Bridges) and Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) don weapons in R.I.P.D. (2013).

Put him in a western hat and give him some crazy facial hair, and it’s almost impossible for Jeff Bridges not to be funny. Hand him a badge and send him into an undead battle zone alongside Ryan Reynolds, and you’ve got the makings of a sci-fi buddy-cop movie that doesn’t need any hifalutin’ awards-season bona fides to rustle up a popcorn-munching good time.

The film R.I.P.D. (streaming here on Peacock) didn't exactly win over critics when it released in 2013, which may have led to it only making $78 million at the box office. So the comics-based jaunt across the threshold of the afterlife has spent the past decade on the raw end of the reputation meter, and it’s high time people gave it another fightin’ chance.

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R.I.P.D. — Jeff Bridges & Ryan Reynolds lasso souls in the afterlife

Helmed by The Time Traveler’s Wife and Snake Eyes director Robert Schwentke, R.I.P.D. is (pretty loosely) based on the same-named high-concept comic from Bram Stoker Award-winner Peter M. Lenkov. It essentially takes Men In Black’s idea of a secret law enforcement agency tasked with tracking down aliens and applies it instead to the spirit realm, with its namesake R.I.P.D. cop outfit (the “Rest In Peace Department”) tracking down rogue “deados” (deceased people who refuse to pass on into the afterlife) and using bright-blue magic bullets to send them on their eternal way.

No one will mistake R.I.P.D. for a well-polished science fiction hootenanny like Men In Black, but the gap between them isn’t nearly as vast as the movie’s scathing 2013 reviews suggest. The hilarious friction between Reynolds (as a recently-murdered Boston cop named Nick) and Bridges (as an old-west lawman named Roy Pulsipher who suffered a similar fate) is a big, big reason why. From its two leading stars to also-great standouts Kevin Bacon (Nick’s ex-Boston cop partner responsible for Nick’s treacherous murder) and Mary-Louise Parker (the R.I.P.D. agency’s hard-to-impress overseer), everyone in this movie looks like they absolutely want to be here, relishing each screwball sci-fi scenario with the same delightful character commitment as MIB’s Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) walks through a burning building and past a man with a gun in R.I.P.D. (2013).

Bridges is especially impossible not to love, growling out hilarious gripes about how the deados give away their presence by “affect[ing] everything with their soul stank” with the same gruff marshal’s drawl he used in 2010’s True Grit — only here, Bridges gets to play it all for laughs. The story’s par for the course for a comedic belter of a movie like this, with Nick — the newest, recently-departed R.I.P.D. recruit — hellbent on saving his widow (Stéphanie Szostak) and the rest of the human race from his ex-partner’s (Bacon’s) evil plot.

Thankfully, you don’t need to overthink the schemes that the bad guys in a movie like R.I.P.D. are probably up to. Their plan is to piece together a shattered sacred relic that opens a portal between realms, a swirling hole in the sky that gives history’s whole parade of undead specters an all-access pass to ransack Planet Earth.

Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) watches Roicephus (Jeff Bridges) extend a hand to Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) in R.I.P.D. (2013).

With cheesy writing and sketchy, immersion-breaking CGI effects, R.I.P.D. is the kind of movie that admittedly ought to stink to high heaven… and it probably would, for that matter, if it just weren’t so loaded with actors who lob every groan-inducing dialogue line straight into the comedic stratosphere. Parker’s cagey double-takes, Reynolds’ well-honed knack for always looking exasperated, and, well, pretty much every single thing that Bridges does all just click — and it’s all because they’re such good sports about embracing the movie’s stupendously silly premise.

In short, R.I.P.D. is an average sci-fi comedy that elevates into something pretty special, thanks to a star cast who simply doesn’t believe in half-measures. Give it a spin and see if you, like us, suspect that maybe the critics’ takes are all show and no go… or if this slept-on slice of sci-fi slapstick truly does suffocate under the pall of that danged ol’ soul stank.

R.I.P.D. is streaming on Peacock here.

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