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ON FAITH & MEDIA View Comments

R.I.P.D.

By
John Mulderig
Source: Catholic News Service


Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds star in a scene from the movie "R.I.P.D."
Confusion reigns in "R.I.P.D." (Universal), a scattershot action adventure that tries to be too many different kinds of movie at once, and winds up being mostly a mess.

With many of its scenes set in the afterlife, moreover, the film features a convoluted set of post-mortem rules, regulations and dynamics only some of which are compatible with Christian faith.

Director Robert Schwentke's adaptation of Peter M. Lenkov's series of graphic novels introduces us to Boston cop Nick Walker (Ryan Reynolds). Though fundamentally decent, Nick has recently been corrupted. Thus, we first observe him furtively burying some ill-gotten goods in his backyard in the middle of the night.

Nick's love for his trusting wife Julia (Stephanie Szostak), however, soon inspires a change of heart, and he decides to return to the straight and narrow.

Rather ill-advisedly, Nick shares the news of his conversion with his even more crooked partner -- in both crime-fighting and crime -- Bobby Hayes (Kevin Bacon). Not one to let things go, it seems, Bobby uses the opportunity of a chaotic raid on a drug lord's den to kill Nick and blame his death on the bad guys.

Waking up in the script's version of Valhalla, Nick is given the opportunity to forestall judgment of -- and, presumably, condemnation for -- his misdeeds by serving on a celestial police force called the Rest in Peace Department. R.I.P.D.'s no-nonsense leader Proctor (Mary-Louise Parker) assures Nick that the organization can use a man with his skills.

Uneasily paired with crusty Wild West-era lawman Roycephus "Roy" Pulsifer (Jeff Bridges), Nick embarks on R.I.P.D.'s work of hunting down dead villains who have managed to evade divine justice by lingering on earth. Improbably, this pursuit eventually ties into -- and sheds new light on -- the circumstances of Nick's own demise.

Though Bridges struggles to sustain the proceedings with amusing bravado, the multiple screenwriters' attempt to combine a buddy movie with a special-effects extravaganza, a comedy and a redemptive romance dooms the film to attention-deficit ineffectiveness.

The image of immortality we're offered is equally out of focus. Believers will welcome the affirmation that our moral choices in this life carry eternal consequences. But, if there is indeed an all-knowing and all-powerful God in command, how is it that the targets of Nick and Roy's investigations -- dubbed Deados -- have eluded the grasp of this Hound of Heaven?

The ante-room afterworld of "R.I.P.D." can be read as a sort of purgatory. Both Nick and Roy are ethically lukewarm characters working out the legacy of their darker doings amid the pain of separation from earthly life and the dissatisfaction caused by their untimely deaths.

But the state these two temporarily inhabit might as easily be identified with the shadowy, nebulous Hades of pagan mythology. And the prospect, as raised in the dialogue, that the dead can be punished with erasure -- so that they will cease to exist spiritually as well as physically -- is certainly contrary to Gospel-based church teaching on the eternal nature of the human soul.

The film contains much action violence with fleeting gore, a nongraphic marital bedroom scene, brief partial nudity, occasional adult humor, a few instances of profanity, considerable crude and crass language and a couple of obscene gestures. The Catholic News Service classification is A-III -- adults. The Motion Picture Association of America rating is PG-13 -- parents strongly cautioned. Some material may be inappropriate for children under 13.

*****
John Mulderig is on the staff of Catholic News Service.





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Athanasius: Athanasius led a tumultuous but dedicated life of service to the Church. He was the great champion of the faith against the widespread heresy of Arianism, the teaching by Arius that Jesus was not truly divine. The vigor of his writings earned him the title of doctor of the Church. 
<p>Born of a Christian family in Alexandria, Egypt, and given a classical education, Athanasius became secretary to Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria, entered the priesthood and was eventually named bishop himself. His predecessor, Alexander, had been an outspoken critic of a new movement growing in the East—Arianism. </p><p>When Athanasius assumed his role as bishop of Alexandria, he continued the fight against Arianism. At first it seemed that the battle would be easily won and that Arianism would be condemned. Such, however, did not prove to be the case. The Council of Tyre was called and for several reasons that are still unclear, the Emperor Constantine exiled Athanasius to northern Gaul. This was to be the first in a series of travels and exiles reminiscent of the life of St. Paul. </p><p>After Constantine died, his son restored Athanasius as bishop. This lasted only a year, however, for he was deposed once again by a coalition of Arian bishops. Athanasius took his case to Rome, and Pope Julius I called a synod to review the case and other related matters. </p><p>Five times Athanasius was exiled for his defense of the doctrine of Christ’s divinity. During one period of his life, he enjoyed 10 years of relative peace—reading, writing and promoting the Christian life along the lines of the monastic ideal to which he was greatly devoted. His dogmatic and historical writings are almost all polemic, directed against every aspect of Arianism. </p><p>Among his ascetical writings, his<i> Life of St. Anthony</i> (January 17) achieved astonishing popularity and contributed greatly to the establishment of monastic life throughout the Western Christian world.</p> American Catholic Blog Suffering is redemptive in part because it definitively reveals to man that he is not in fact God, and it thereby opens the human person to receive the divine.

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