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Men in Bland: R.I.P.D. is a Movie That Exists

Men in Bland: <I>R.I.P.D.</I> is a Movie That Exists
Photo by Scott Garfield – © 2013 - Universal Pictures
Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds in R.I.P.D.

In actual life, bureaucratic systems are the only workable state-citizen interface we’ve developed that can handle the sheer bulk of smelly, cranky humanity. In comedies, filmmakers often render the infinite and otherworldly in the mundane, human terms of bureaucracy, with all the waiting rooms, Muzak, and impossible regulatory complexities that depiction implies. We can’t really envision an afterlife that isn’t somehow modeled on our own psychic landscape.

So it goes in R.I.P.D. After being shot in the face by fellow crooked cop Kevin Bacon, deceased detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) ascends through swirling cloud orifices into the human resources office of the afterlife’s Rest in Peace Department. Mary-Louise Parker explains that, due to his law-enforcement acumen, he’s been recruited for service in the RIPD instead of consigned to Hell, and assigns him to veteran officer Roy Pulsifer (lovable old Jeff Bridges), a lawman shot and killed -- and then eaten by coyotes -- in the 19th century.

Yes, it’s a purgatorial ripoff of the entire plot of Men in Black. The script reverses the principal roles, casting the experienced Roy as the wisecracking loose cannon and rookie Nick as a serious, determined lawman. Bridges endows the insouciant Roy with that voice he does, the one that sounds like he’s got an egg yolk in his mouth and he’s trying not to break it. And Reynolds does a lot of stony glaring.

Unfortunately, the interesting drabness of the afterlife’s police department is paired with the colorless paucity of the film’s heavies -- rubbery, monstrous

 
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