Christian reviewers roundly condemned the ineptitude of "R.I.P.D.," the latest high-profile, high-budget film to flop this summer.
The Movieguide review flat out declared: "R.I.P.D. is horrible filmmaking with almost no redeemable qualities and plenty of offensive elements."
Dr. Ted Baehr, chairman of the Christian Film and Television Coalition and editor-in-chief of Movieguide told The Christian Post that the film's ineptitude is not a matter of opinion. "When you build a bridge, if the bridge doesn't stand up, it's not an opinion," he said. "Even the Hollywood people are embarrassed by it."
"R.I.P.D." is a supernatural action-adventure film that follows two cops (Jeff Bridges, Ryan Reynolds) dispatched by the otherworldly Rest In Peace Department to protect and serve the living from an increasingly destructive array of creatures who try to escape final judgment, according to the film's synopsis.
Scott Rolfe, who reviewed the film for the Dove Foundation, told The Christian Post in an interview Thursday that they did not approve the film due to language and violence. "The violence is just a bit over the top for our rating," he said.
He also noted five misuses of Jesus' name, 16 s*its, and one irreverent reference to Christ.
While noting that the Dove Foundation doesn't typically comment on the worldviews of films, Rolfe said that many Hollywood films "do have a pagan worldview," and "R.I.P.D" is no exception.
He criticized "the whole concept of people being killed and not dying," which forms the centerpiece of the film's action. "Deados are people who are killed and yet remain on earth," he explained. The hero's main job is to make sure these pseudo-zombies don't destroy the world.
"Anything with supernatural elements that deal with talismans, objects that can bring the spirit world and the human world together," he argued, "would be a pagan worldview, by definition."
Baehr also believes the film's pagan elements are undeniable. Its "non-formalized religious, superstitious structures" fit the term "pagan" precisely.
According to the Movieguide review, not only does the film seem to copy "Men in Black" and "Ghostbusters," but its effects prove "sub par," and the filmmakers miss "good opportunities for meaningful moments." While the universe in "R.I.P.D." clearly has a heaven and hell, the film "sill avoids any religious overtones, essentially giving it a pagan worldview."
Paul Asay, senior associate editor at Focus on the Family's "Plugged In" review site, disagreed. "It doesn't really have a pagan vibe to it," he told CP, noting that the film had "some touchstones of Christian faith," such as an ultimate last judgment.
Nevertheless, he admitted that "the universe" replaces God and that there are "some issues with universal management." The deados plague the earth because they fall out of an over-packed funnel to heaven. The Staff of Jericho would reverse the flow, sending all the dead bodies back to earth.
While the staff may give the hero purpose, Asay confessed he was perplexed as to why anyone would create such an object. "Everything in this movie is just muddled – the logic, the physics, the story."
He said these quirky elements put him in mind of a "Dilbert-esque universe," a mix between "Men in Black" and "The Sixth Sense." "Whoever made this sort of took away the aliens, put in some dead people, and called it good," he explained, jokingly.
Despite these wacky themes, the Plugged In reviewer found "some sort of moral framework," and praised the hero. Nick, a recently slain cop who joins the postmortem police to frustrate the deados, not only encourages his wife to live on without him, but saves the world while waiting for her.
Even so, the film struggles under mediocrity, Asay argued. The producers "were just hoping to create a fun, very CGI heavy, summer lark," he explained. "Unfortunately, they failed."
Echoing Asay's sentiment, Baehr cited an article, saying, "If you miss a plot point by one second, you've lost a million dollars at the box office." In "R.I.P.D.," however, "they probably missed the plot point by about five minutes, and they lost billions at the box office."
"R.I.P.D." reportedly cost more than $130 million, and only grossed $12.76 million at the box office last weekend. Meanwhile, the haunted-house thriller "The Conjuring" brought in $41.5 million, well above its cost, around $19.5 million.