Here's a phrase I'll bet most people never thought they'd either read or type: "Jeff Bridges will be stepping in for Zack Galifianakis in the upcoming supernatural cop/comedy 'R.I.P.D.'."
The film, which sounds like "Men In Black" for monsters, is set to star Ryan Reynolds, and when Galifianakis left that film, I wondered if it might be because Reynolds was moving on to something else and Galifianakis didn't want to book something that wasn't actually about to happen.
I'll say this… moving from one of those actors to the other totally changes which version of that movie you're making. Bridges certainly isn't infallible, but he's capable of things at this point in his body of work that Galifianakis may never pull off. He's been amazing for a long time, and those of you just catching up in the last handful of years can be excused. You didn't see a lot of his great work in the '80s and the '90s. Those movies didn't make money. I still don't see a cult for most of his great overlooked work, and maybe I should get evangelical about that in a separate piece sometime, really point out the moments where I think he's carved out his place in the cinema firmament.
Lately, he's been on a hot streak and audiences have this great sloppy Jeff Bridges love affair going. They'll eat him up with a spoon in the right movie these days. People want Jeff Bridges to live on their couch. They want to smoke a joint with him and Willie Nelson and play guitars sometime. They want him to be his characters when they meet him, and some of the times we've spoken, he has been.
I met him for the first time in 1984, and he spent a day making acting look like magic for me, trying things different ways, giving his director choices and options, playing, and above all enjoying the craft of it. I've had an unabashed love of his work for as long as I've been watching his work, and it's been nice to watch him make his victory tour for the last few years.
If he plays the partner to Ryan Reynolds, that's "Men In Black." That's an elder statesman and a young buck, butting heads and playing off each other's energy in a certain way. That's such a specific dynamic. And if you put Zack Galifianakis in that role, playing off of Ryan Reynolds, that's more "Ghostbusters," peers bouncing funny lines off one another in the face of the freaky. Totally different movies, and you could make each of them off the same basic script.
If nothing else, this story points out just how crucial casting is to a movie's ultimate identity. Obviously it doesn't mean that the movie's going to be great if they pair Bridges and Reynolds, but it helps get me interested.
According to the redoubtable Borys Kit, "'R.I.P.D.' follows a murdered cop (Reynolds) who is recruited to work in the Rest In Peace Department, a police force comprised of ghosts who battle spirits unready to depart this world. Bridges will play Reynolds's partner, a wise-cracking officer who has been hunting spirts since the 1800s. Robert Schwentke is directing."
How you feel about that final sentence depends, I would guess, on your reaction to "Red," the Bruce Willis/Helen Mirren/Mary Louise Parker/Morgan Freeman/John Malkovich movie from last year. I liked it. I'm curious.
I'm a long way from sold, but Bridges is enough to make me want to see how they play off each other, and what Schwentke's going to bring to the table to try and nail down a very difficult subgenera, the FX comedy.
I wish them luck.