Whimsical takes on the end of the world are nothing new. Just in 2013 alone we have This is the End, The World’s End, and this film, Rapture-Palooza. But while the other two films are about surviving the destruction of the planet, Rapture-Palooza is more concerned with (1) a creepy romance between two of its characters and (2) living day-to-day life after everyone who believed in God was removed from the Earth’s surface. Oh, and surviving the fireballs of doom, random rainstorms of blood and bloodthirsty wraiths.
The film’s lead and narrator is Anna Kendrick, here playing a teenage virgin named Lindsey. She, along with her boyfriend, Ben (John Francis Daley), were bowling one day when the Rapture occurred. No big deal, according to her description. One moment everyone was having a good time, while the next half the world’s population was in heaven. Those left on Earth had to deal with the aforementioned “inconveniences,” as well as the arrival of the Antichrist (Craig Robinson), who has dubbed himself “The Beast.”
The “creepy romance” I mentioned above is in regard to the one that “develops” between The Beast and Lindsey. The Beast winds up laying eyes on her and decides to make her his object of desire. And because he’s the Antichrist, he gets what he wants. As the film moves along, almost anything that spews out of Robinson’s mouth is in bad taste. It’s supposed to be funny, and, sure, it’s all done for laughs, but it’s the same joke over and over. That gets stale after the first few times, and after that you still have another 80 minutes to listen to.
Rapture-Palooza eventually builds up to a “let’s take out the Antichrist to prevent him from spawning a child with Lindsey” plot. That allows Robinson to have a lot of screen time and sexually explicit dialogue, lets Kendrick to look awkward and disgusted, permits Francis Daley to disappear into the background, and gives plenty of time for the supporting cast to … show up, say “funny” things, and then disappear. The most prominent members of the supporting cast are Rob Corddry, who is in the film a great deal, and Ken Jeong, who gets one scene.
The problem here is that Rapture-Palooza only really works when it’s joking about how the Rapture would play out. When it has Lindsey describing the events that directly followed the Rapture — her nonchalant delivery hammering home just how dull the whole thing would wind up being after a while — the film is actually kind of funny. This only lasts for a few minutes, though, before we move onto the “plot.” And that “plot” isn’t very funny and barely even uses the whole “Rapture” angle.
Rapture-Palooza has no doubt been created on a very low budget. Mostly comedic actors doing a farce during their downtime for a laugh and for little money happens fairly often, and that’s what this movie feels like. Somehow, it had to show the Rapture, but its special effects would be laughable in a student film. Of course, the filmmakers can just say “that’s the point” and deflect any such criticism. Just be aware that this isn’t a big-budget “end of the world” movie.
It is also incredibly tedious and thin. The film doesn’t even reach the 90-minute mark, and that’s with what seemed like an exceptionally long end credits sequence. And it’s not like we even get outtakes — which are sometimes funnier than the actual movie in projects like this — the credits just play for longer than you’d expect from a film this lacking in production values. I mean, if a movie with this premise can’t even reach 80 minutes in length, that speaks volumes to how few ideas it contains.
I have to wonder how much of the dialogue was improvised. If much of it was — and a great deal of Robinson’s dialogue appeared to be — then it’s a testament to how important writers are to a comedy. Improvised comedies can be funny, but you need actors or comedians who excel in that sort of comedic style. If that was the case here, these actors are not improvisationally strong. And, if this was how it was written, the writer — Chris Matheson, so claims the credits — a new draft should have been penned.
Rapture-Palooza is not a funny movie. It has a fun premise that winds up being vastly underutilized. After the first few minutes, it becomes more focused on its Antichrist character and while he’s supposed to be over-the-top and satirical, it doesn’t wind up working. The plot is thin, the script is weak, and the actors don’t really seem invested in the material. This is a film that could have easily been a funny take on the Rapture — and when it’s about the Rapture, it is — but it degenerates quickly and never realizes its potential.