LOS ANGELES — In “R.I.P.D.,” Ryan Reynolds and Jeff Bridges portray deceased lawmen who keep the peace from beyond the grave – the odd-couple partners protect the living from malevolent spirits who refuse to go quietly into the afterlife.
But shortly before the $130-million sci-fi action-comedy reaches theaters Friday, “R.I.P.D.’s” vital signs are showing about as much of a pulse as the lifeless “Deados” that Bridges and Reynolds battle.
Entering a crowded multiplex this weekend – where the film will face off against the ensemble action caper “Red 2,” the animated kid flick “Turbo” and the modestly budgeted horror movie “The Conjuring” – audience tracking surveys show that “R.I.P.D.” could gross as little as $17 million in its opening weekend, likely the worst among the four new films in release.
That outcome would represent a spectacular failure to launch, even in a summer season full of big-budget misfires such as “The Lone Ranger,” “White House Down,” “Pacific Rim” and “After Earth,” all of which grossed more than $20 million in their opening weekends.
The consumer polling firm Piedmont Media Research said that “R.I.P.D.” is faring about as poorly in its online surveys as some of the costliest flops in recent memory, including “Battleship,” “Jack the Giant Slayer” and “John Carter.”
“‘R.I.P.D.’ is scoring the lowest out of any summer movie we’ve seen,” said the firm’s president, Joshua Lynn. “It’s easily shaping up to be the big summer bomb.”
Unlike some of the other big duds from the schools-out season, “R.I.P.D.” has flown mostly under the incoming bomb radar, a consequence largely of coming out in the shadow of “The Lone Ranger.” But its likely underachievement dramatizes how the summer has been sharply divided between the haves and the have-nots: Rarely has there been so wide a gulf between movies that worked and those that didn’t.
Chatter about the film on social media has been largely derisive, with numerous Twitter posters pointing out “R.I.P.D.’s” perceived similarities to another supernatural buddy-cop franchise, “Men in Black,” the Bill Murray comedy “Ghostbusters” and Guillermo del Toro’s “Hellboy” movies.
“Just saw the trailer for the new Men in Black movie,” Wil Anderson tweeted this month. “For some weird reason they seem to have renamed it RIPD.”
Universal, assuming that negative reviews will do little to enhance the film’s box office prospects, is declining to show “R.I.P.D.” to journalists and critics until Thursday night, just hours before its theatrical release.
Regardless of how “R.I.P.D.” fares, the studio has enjoyed a record year at the box office and is set to cross the $1-billion mark in domestic ticket sales this weekend, the fastest Universal has surpassed that milestone.
In one twist, “R.I.P.D.” is certain to trail the opening of “Red 2,” a franchise that “R.I.P.D.” director Schwentke launched three years ago.
Helen Mirren, who stars in both “Red” films, said it was unfortunate that her film was likely to topple Schwentke’s. “I wish him all the luck in the world,” the actress said. “But I do hope we are No. 1.”