Rapture-Palooza (2013) / Comedy-Fantasy
MPAA rated: R for pervasive language including crude sexual references throughout, and for drug use
Running time: 85 min.
Cast: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, John Francis Daley, Rob Corddry, Ana Gasteyer, John Michael Higgins, Rob Huebel, Calum Worthy, Thomas Lennon, Paul Scheer, Tyler Labine
Small roles and cameos: Ken Jeong
Director: Paul Middleditch
Screenplay: Chris Matheson
The high-concept Rapture-Palooza is directed by Paul Middleditch (Separation City, A Cold Summer), which is appropriate, because most viewers will probably choose to ditch this film somewhere in the middle of it.
The premise is that the Rapture occurs, in which devout believers are immediately transformed to unseen spirit form and called up to Heaven, leaving all of the sinners and non-believers on Earth to suffer the Devil's reign. Most of the events of this Seattle-based story (Vancouver, BC substitutes) surrounds a teenager named Lindsey (Kendrick, End of Watch), who doesn't believe in religion, stuck on Earth with her family and her boyfriend, Ben (Daley, Horrible Bosses). Plagues erupt, including talking locusts and foul-mouthed crows, blood rains from the skies, and meteors crash down on unsuspecting houses, cars and people. Other than that, it's mostly business as usual for the remaining Earth dwellers -- well, those who haven't turned into zombies (er, wraiths, as they are called in this film), that is.
Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine, Zack and Miri Make a Porno) co-stars as Earl the Anti-Christ, a politician who changes his name to the 'Beast' and becomes a tyrannical force on Earth. Lindsey and Ben take up a job with Beast, but when Beast spies the goods on the curvaceous young woman, his lustful mind turns to nothing but trying to coerce the virginal Lindsey into sex and impregnation, something she has no intention of getting involved in. From then on, it's either take Beast down, or go down on Beast time.
The concept of a "Rapture comedy" is a rare one, especially in movies, so the script by Chris Matheson, writer of Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure, is at least trying to give us something fresh or new, even though those readers of the 'Left Behind' series of books (and Kirk Cameron-starring films) may regard this as a spoof of sorts -- well, this abysmal comedy sure came out of some sort of 'behind', anyway. Forget the opening blurb of the film being 'Based on a true story', as that's just part of the sophomoric attempt at humor. Interestingly, there are two prominent apocalyptic comedies to come out in June, 2013, Rapture-Palooza and This is the End, and both just so happen to feature Craig Robinson. Matheson probably shouldn't get all of the blame for the terrible comedy of this film, as it appears that the cast of mostly comedic actors had free reign to ad-lib as much as they wanted, though rarely do they have something funny to say.
In the world of comedy, vulgarity is often a crutch for bad writing, and boy, is this film bad, and therefore, it goes very vulgar to try to get laughs. Some might compare this film to another religion-based comedy, Dogma, which is equally hampered by cheap theatrics and an inability to get solid laughs from the material without resorting to dick jokes, stoner comedy, and ridiculous levels of slapstick violence.
Though there are some moments of CG and a quality cast of thespians (though Kendrick and Daley seem far too long in the tooth to be playing virgin teens), Rapture-Palooza is a fairly low budget, independent flick, and it plays like one. With only a modest budget for effects, costumes, set design, and other tech aspects, the meager production wears its visuals like a thrift-store suit. The direction lacks the style that a film like this should really have in order to capture the true essence of good and evil. Instead, it mostly plays out like a series of completely random, absurd events that the cast plays to by just mouthing F-bombs in reaction to their surroundings, as if cussing alone constitutes attempts at humor.
Unless you're someone who uncontrollably titters whenever something raunchy is referred to, Rapture-Palooza is one to be avoided, with a novel idea for comedy that quickly devolves into standard weed smoking and butt-sex gags that can be found in any number of dumb comedies coming out just about every week in theaters and on video. Far from a heavenly comedy, this one deserves to be left behind.
©2013 Vince Leo