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Bomb Squad: Why Did R.I.P.D. Tank?

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Welcome to “Bomb Squad,” a recurring column that takes a closer look at a movie that tanked at the box office and tries to figure out what happened.

From the outset, R.I.P.D. held some promise. Starring Jeff Bridges and Ryan Reynolds, and based on a Dark Horse comic book, the film was being positioned as a new version of Ghostbusters or Men in Black, telling the story of two deceased, wisecracking policemen who team up to battle runaway paranormal folks who are seeking refuge among the living. The box office results, however, were ghastly: R.I.P.D. brought in less than $13 million in its first weekend, ending up in seventh place. (Even more painful, the film is said to have had a budget of $130 million.) What exactly happened here? Let’s take a look at some possible theories, some more convincing than others, and then come up with our verdict…

Theory No. 1: Ryan Reynolds can’t open a movie.

In a sane universe, Ryan Reynolds would seem to be your prototypical movie star. He’s handsome, he’s funny, he’s buff—quite simply, he simply looks the part. But when you check out his commercial track record, that’s when the problems start. His biggest hit is The Croods, an animated movie where he isn’t even the lead. Other movies that have performed well — X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Safe House and The Proposal — featured him in limited or second-fiddle roles. The one movie where he’s really the main attraction, Green Lantern, made over $116 million but was labeled a disappointment, in part because the reviews were scathing and in part because it supposedly cost at least $200 million to make. In R.I.P.D., he’s again supporting a bigger name — in this case, Jeff Bridges — but because his costar is a legend with an Oscar who seems above the messy needs of A-list stars to deliver huge box office, this new movie’s failure will probably hurt Reynolds a lot more than it does Bridges. (Also tarnishing Reynolds’ box-office credentials: He was the lead voice in Turbo, which underperformed this weekend as well.)

Theory No. 2: It just seemed like a Ghostbusters/Men in Black rip-off.

It’s no secret that Hollywood likes to recycle successful formulas, whether that means rebooting a franchise or copying what worked in a movie from the past. R.I.P.D. clearly was targeting fans who dug Ghostbusters and Men in Black — the new film has the same smirky attitude as those venerable action-comedies — but director Robert Schwentke never could quite figure out what made the Bridges/Reynolds pairing fun. Instead, it’s a lot of strained oil-and-water sparring without the clever characters that made those other franchises so breezy and engaging. Nobody would have loved Men in Black that much if it was just a bunch of nifty effects — they came for Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

Theory No. 3: Nobody was familiar with the source material.

More and more often, studios are very happy to serve up movies during the summer that are based on properties you already know: Star Trek Into Darkness, Iron Man 3, Monsters University. By comparison, R.I.P.D. was almost an original idea. Sure, it was adapted from Peter M. Lenkov’s comic book, but this is the first time it’s been made into a film. The problem with that rationale, however, is that this summer has actually been pretty decent when it comes to first-time films. The Heat, The Croods and Now You See Me all made over $100 million, each produced from an original screenplay. There’s always a market for fresh ideas, but R.I.P.D. clearly didn’t qualify in the minds of a lot of audiences.

Theory No. 4: Jeff Bridges keeps doing the same shtick.

Everybody loves Bridges, and with good reason. Ever since appearing in The Last Picture Show as a fresh-faced kid, he has proved to be one of Hollywood’s most enduring actors, finally winning a long-overdue Academy Award for his work in 2009’s Crazy Heart. But in recent years, he’s enjoyed turning out spirited, slightly nutso portrayals in films like Masked and Anonymous, Tron: Legacy and True Grit. (The height of such performances, of course, is in The Big Lebowski.) His performance as the Old West lawman Roy in R.I.P.D. is a silly twist on his drunken, ornery Rooster from True Grit, but it felt formulaic, Bridges going to the watch-me-be-kooky well once too often. It’s really hard to believe that a lot of people would have stayed away from R.I.P.D. just for that reason, but it’s always possible it was a contributing factor for some.

The Verdict

There are plenty of explanations for what might have contributed to the commercial failure of R.I.P.D. (For example, Universal’s decision to only screen the movie the night before its release was a strong indication to the world that the studio knew it had a stinker on its hands.) But the overarching problem seems, in hindsight, rather simple: There was nothing that interesting or compelling in what audiences saw in ads that made them want to seek out this movie. Especially in the summer, a film has to offer something genuinely exciting (or, at the very least, pleasantly familiar) to get people to come out. R.I.P.D. never did that, so it’s little surprise that it flat-lined.

You can follow Tim Grierson on Twitter.

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Rev Up

Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Give Back

Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.



Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.

via GIPHY

Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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