Flashback Friday: R.I.P.D.

I am amongst the few, the proud, the Ryan Reynolds fans. I won’t apologize for it, I just won’t. I’m not sure I’d describe him as a strong actor or an excellent judge of projects, but nonetheless, I like him. I think he has charisma, I find that he can deliver a joke well, and the scene in SMOKING ACES when he unplugs life support from two criminals? Pretty well played, thank you very much.

I say this as prologue to excusing myself from still not being excited for MEN IN BLACK 4 R.I.P.D. You see it isn’t personal. I like Reynolds and EVERYONE likes Jeff Bridges. I don’t wish not to be excited about a movie starring them. It just…happened, you know.

And yes, it is based on a comic (not one I ever read, but a comic nonetheless) and that, perhaps, makes my lack of interest all the more of a stinging betrayal. But these are the times we live in.

Nonetheless, we press on. To prepare for next week’s release, I have once again selected two films to watch as preparation.

As indicated by sharp, clever joke about MEN IN BLACK 4 above, R.I.P.D. evokes no other movie as much as this Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith 1997 alien caper flick. Yes, in R.I.P.D. it is the deceased who have somehow dodged the “other side,” not aliens, but make that mental switch in your mind and, well, not all that different, right?

Secret organization? Check.

Old, salty vet paired with a jokey newbie? Check.

Identities erased (via fingerprint removal in MiB, via new bodies in R.I.P.D.)? Check.

And so on.

I’ve also chosen CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL because it has a writer in common, Phil Hay, the director Robert Schwentke’s past works will pop up in other Flashback Fridays, and…well, I have other reasons too.

MEN IN BLACK

What’s hard to remember before rewatching this movie—with Tommy Lee Jones becoming increasingly taciturn over the past few years and Will Smith now ruling over the Willennium with a terrifying, pitiless iron fist—is what a delight this movie is. It is fun and funny, has great character designs and, for the time, CGI, and Jones and Smith demonstrate a genuine chemistry as the veteran agent K and the brash new guy, J.

 Little know fact: D'Onfrio's character here and in Law & Order: Criminal Intent are intended to be the exact same. (photo from palzoo.net)

Little know fact: D'Onfrio's character here and in Law & Order: Criminal Intent are intended to be the exact same. (photo from palzoo.net)

You also might forget the work Vincent D’Onofrio does as the farmer turned skinsuit for an alien invader. Twisting his body in all kinds of unnatural positions and postures, growling, and jerking his body with each step, it is a performance that is remarkably showy and yet, somehow, not over the top or too scenery chewing. Eventually, said skin loses the battle to the CGI beast underneath, but until then, it is an impressive performance at acting to your own level while still grounding yourself in the “world” of the movie.

Other small parts—Linda Fiorentino as a possibly flirtatious medical examiner who sees too much, Tony Shalhoub as an alien with an endless supply of heads—make undeniable impressions as well.

Recommended. Watch it again and remember how much fun it was and is today.

 

CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL

This is an admittedly weird selection, I confess. But once I saw Phil Hay also wrote C/B, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to discuss it.

CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL is a teen movie than generally ignores the trends of the time in re: to teen movies. Kirsten Dunst plays a rich, white, but out of control girl from the good side of the tracks in Los Angeles  and Jay Hernandez is the hard working minority student who takes the bus hours to go to the “good” public high school. They meet, fall in love, and the ways they used to define their lives and goals are rapidly unraveled by their romance.

Bruce Davison, playing Dunst’s dad, tries to keep Hernandez. However, in an inversion of that classic formula, Davison is doing it to protect Hernandez. The boy’s future is bright, reasons Davison, but his daughter threatens all of that. Can Hernandez separate himself from Dunst before it costs him everything? Can Dunst save herself by loving a good man?

Dunst was as big a deal as ever at the time and she could’ve taken a much safer teen film if that’s what she was interested in. Instead, she chose to play a pampered but ignored girl inches from being a woman who suffers from mental illness and might be as much of a danger to others as she clearly is to herself. She’s dirty, greasy, disinterested in bras, pants, and full shirts. It seems to be an aggressively non-mainstream, non-glamorous choice on her part, running from her honeyed looks into a movie that does not seem to even have an “Oscar Bait” vibe to it that most actresses would need to justify the mussing up. Hernandez, meanwhile, four years older and in his first major screen role, brings a natural quality to his character that might just veer a little too close to saint to have much depth, but stands onscreen with Dunst throughout, never being overwhelmed by her showier, more complex part.

Shot almost entirely through blue filters, CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL is an odd little picture. It’s messy, it meanders, the plot sort of comes and goes, depending on the seemingly capricious feelings of the filmmakers. But it is also undeniably watchable. The romance is rapid but feels authentically adolescent. People in the film make mistakes but everyone genuinely seems like they are trying to be, trying to reach for something better, only to find they’re getting in their own way. It’s easy to see why it is a largely forgotten 2001 release that didn’t make much of a splash when it was released. But it is also a shame. I recommend CRAZY/BEAUTIFUL. If Hay can bring some of the messy candor and romanticism here to R.I.P.D., we might end up with a very strange, interesting summer offering indeed.

(Although, it should be noted, I do not expect that that will be the case.)

 But if it just brought back late 90's/early aughts fashion, that'd work for me too. (photo from hotflick.net)

But if it just brought back late 90's/early aughts fashion, that'd work for me too. (photo from hotflick.net)