"R.I.P.D." is a mash-up of romance, sci-fi, mystery, action, cops, comedy, cowboys and zombies.
This mix may have worked in the graphic novels that served as the movie's source - but on screen it flops.
The film never manages to balance its disparate elements; aiming for several targets at once, "R.I.P.D." misses them all.
This film publicity image released by Universal Pictures shows Jeff Bridges, left, and Ryan Reynolds in a scene from “R.I.P.D.” The film was released nationwide on Friday.
It's been a tedious summer of sequels and retreads, and this movie's set-up did at least promise a breath of originality:
Ghosts of famous lawmen work for the Rest in Peace Department, seeking to capture other renegade specters (known as Deados) who've escaped eternal punishment and reentered the world disguised as regular humans. ("The system wasn't designed to handle this much volume," laments an afterlife bureaucrat played by Mary-Louise Parker.)
When a hot young cop (Ryan Reynolds) is killed on duty, he partners with the ghost of an Old West sheriff (Jeff Bridges) - with the added twist that RIPD agents assume different shapes in our world: Reynolds looks like an aging Asian, Bridges a curvaceous young blonde.
Well, at least it's different. Or so you would have thought.
The sad fact is that "R.I.P.D." is just as flat, misguided, overblown and poorly scripted as most of this summer's other let-downs.
Bridges, who hasn't picked a stinker in years, is strictly on autopilot in this dud.
Both he and Parker give astonishingly unfunny, one-dimensional performances; they seem to be looking for a sort of comic-book hyperbole, which not only fails but also clashes with the more realistic style of Reynolds and co-star Kevin Bacon.
One can almost picture this succeeding in comic-book format, where cheese and corn seem easier to digest.
Take, for instance, the opening line: "So you think you've had a tough day ... "
It feels right at home in a word balloon amid colored panels - but not so much in a big-budget movie where the narrator is about to get shot to death by a crooked cop.
Indeed, the whole thing is such an oddity that I wondered briefly if it would be better toned down to a PG-rated adventure aimed at kids, who might be more accepting of its sophomoric writing.
But the hairy plot would challenge many of them - as would the film's over-the-top, gratuitous gross-outs.
And couldn't the writers have managed some fun by making the Wild West sheriff wrestle with the quirks of contemporary culture, rather than - as is the somewhat awkward case here - conversing freely about deodorant, laptops and STDs?
The film simply isn't clever. Or funny. Or exciting. Or cool.
Its single redeeming factor is supporting star Stephanie Szostak ("Iron Man 3," "Dinner for Schmucks"). Playing Reynolds' wife, Szotak is so alive, so vivid, vital and vibrant, it's like she's giving the movie CPR.
I guess someone might have told her that - contrary to what the storyline asserts - you really can't pump life into a corpse.
** (out of four)
The film is rated PG-13 for language, crude talk and ghostly gross-outs.