Adapted from Peter M. Lenkov’s comic book “Rest in Peace Department,” “R.I.P.D.” squanders its promising premise on a shopworn plot populated with generic characters.
The story unfolds on the day Boston police detective Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds) dies. After refusing to join partner Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon) in stealing the gold bricks from a drug bust, Nick is marked for death. Since we know what’s coming next, Nick’s killing and his ascension into the sky via a whirlwind are anticlimactic.
The detective’s next brush with consciousness occurs when he finds himself across the table from a Progressive-insurance-girl knock-off (Mary-Louise Parker), a fitting image since she offers Nick a kind of insurance deal to spend 100 years serving as an undead cop and Nick’s final judgement is likely to be favorable.
Nick agrees to the terms because he longs to see his pretty wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak). Moments later, he regrets that decision because his new partner is rootin’ tootin’ Wild West sheriff Roy Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges).
It appears that some undead villains have slipped through the cracks, and are still wandering the earth where their presence poses a threat to the living. Roy and Nick are charged with extinguishing these undead souls. In order to expose and confirm them in their mutating forms, Nick and Roy must either eat Indian cuisine while in the presence of the undead (known as deados) or force them to inhale cumin, either of which will reveal a deado’s true condition. Unfortunately, they invariably take the shape of oversize, grotesque humans.
Meanwhile, Nick and Roy can not be killed, except by the soul-killing guns they carry. Nick’s inclination is to find his wife, but she is unable to recognize him because Nick appears to the living as “an old Chinese dude” (James Hong), while Roy appears as a comely, buxom blonde (swimsuit model Marisa Miller).
In due course, we learn — along with Nick and Roy — that the gold stolen by Nick’s partner is part of an icon that will restore all dead souls to Earth if the icon is reassembled in its entirety. For reasons that are unclear this wouldn’t be good.
Reynolds, who has shown spark as a straight man, is thinly sketched and stripped of zippy dialog, while Bridges, normally a pleasure to watch, slips into a no-account character, all too familiar in the wake of “The Big Lebowski.”
After the initial mutant is revealed, the film’s special effects fail to dazzle or surprise us, leaving little to anticipate over the next 60 minutes. I found myself hoping for more shots of Nick and Roy’s avatars, because the sight of a shabby aging Asian fellow flanked by a tall, gorgeous young blonde, is funny. Sadly, having shelled out the bucks for Bridges and Reynolds, the film stuck with this poorly drawn duo 99 percent of the time — meaning most of the film is a real snoozer.