Riding my rapture high from seeing This Is The End last night, I woke up this morning and decided to check out a lesser-known apocalyptic comedy released this weekend called Rapture-Palooza. Penned by Chris Matheson, the bodacious dude who wrote Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, and directed by Paul Middleditch, I didn’t really know what to expect, but the cast of comedic talent attached settled my nerves before the watch. I mean you’ve got Craig Robinson, Thomas Lennon, Rob Corddry, Ken Jeong, Rob Huebel, Anna Kendrick *drools on keyboard*, and Paul Scheer, so a decent amount of laughs were expected – but unfortunately not achieved.
Rapture-Palooza tells the story of Ben (John Francis Daley) and Lindsey (Anna Kendrick), a young couple just trying to survive God’s rapture. While those rightious enough were granted amnesty from the ordeal by being accepted to heaven, modern day heathens like Ben and Lindsey are forced to live on Earth while it’s ravaged by foul-mouthed birds, annoying locusts, falling meteors, and the incarnation of evil himself, the Anti-Christ (Craig Robinson) – whose name happens to be Earl. Times are tough during the rapture though, so the two decide to go against their morals and work for the Anti-Christ, but when they arrive at his mansion, things take a turn for the worst. Upon seeing the ravishing Lindsey, the Anti-Christ immediately takes a liking to her, saying if she won’t go out with him, he’ll kill everyone she cares about. So the question is, do you date the Anti-Christ and sell out completely, or decline his advances and lose the only people left in your life? Welcome to the rapture!
Let it be known that Matheson’s story is much more suited for romantic comedy/raunchy comedy fans, as a much stronger stress is put on the relationship between Ben and Lindsey and how they deal with the rapture over actually exploring the violence of the rapture itself. There are a few comical twists that Rapture-Palooza spins of the event, like the addition of crows who mercilessly insult you, but don’t expect to see Wraiths and demons slaughtering the sinners left to roam Earth. Nope, Matheson’s story is straight comedy, but comedy that turns the rapture into something more mundane and annoying. Middleditch’s vision never actually felt all that apocalyptic.
Addressing the comedy though, it often felt safe and stale, and a little too immature for my liking. Most of the jokes center around Craig Robinson’s Anti-Christ being a sex obsessed pervert who says the nastiest shit imaginable to Anna Kendrick’s character Lindsey, but the act grows tiresome after a while. Robinson’s blatantly obvious innuendos and explanations make us laugh as if we were watching some stereotypical frathouse dickhead spitting his “best” game at some sorority girl, but just as she’d grow tired of hearing how much her admirer can bench, we grow tired of hearing how many ways Craig Robinson can tell Anna Kendrick he wants to totally bone her. Aside from that material, it was hard to find a real laugh floating around Rapture-Palooza, which is strung together by nothing but vague silliness and small chuckles. For a script dealing with a topic as epic as the rapture, it sure felt like Matheson didn’t really embrace the “nothing left to lose” mentality.
Don’t think Rapture-Palooza was completely without laughs though, because a few scenes absolutely tickled my funny bone the right way. Craig Robinson’s Anti-Christ starts out hilariously while interacting with Kendrick, before the novelty wears off, but even funnier are his interactions with his bodyguard, played by Rob Huebel. Their chemistry is a great mix of fear and brown-nosing, making Huebel into a nicely comedic sidekick. Another shout out goes to Paul Scheer and Tyler Labine’s pot-smoking Wraith characters, providing laughs in the form of paranoia and stoner humor.
As for lead actors Anna Kendrick and John Francis Daley, they’re able to carry Rapture-Palooza along through performances that have become second nature to both. Kendrick is an innocent, quick-talking girl next door, and Daley once again is the nice guy trying to deal with a crumby situation without snapping. While I think the two work rather well together, Ben and Lindsey themselves aren’t interesting enough characters to actually keep you fully engaged, and too much effort is spent relying on the supporting cast around them. As much as Anna Kendrick is dynamite in everything else she stars in, Lindsey is just as flat as the rest of this lacklauster rapture, missing Kendrick’s signature quirky charm.
Rapture-Palooza is a disappointing comedy that ignores just how funny the rapture could be. The film put together quite the cast when considering all the funny material these comedians have created separately themselves, but Middleditch’s effort will not be included when discussing the funniest films actors like Anna Kendrick and Craig Robinson have participated in. If you’re really in the mood for some riotous apocalyptic comedy, take the trip to theaters for This Is The End. Middleditch’s film is nothing but a “Hey, it’s on TV and I’m not doing anything, I might as well leave it on” kind of watch.