Directed by Paul Middleditch
The apocalypse seems all the rage these days, and the latest comedy to tackle the topic is director Paul Middleditch’s Rapture-Palooza, which arrived in limited theaters recently courtesy of Lionsgate. And while there’s no doubt that another apocalyptic comedy that’s been hogging the spotlight as of late is set to take over theaters later this week, that’s not to say Rapture-Palooza isn’t also worthy of a little attention as the film, while uneven at times, definitely packs in a lot of laughs, especially during the finale, and makes for a fun film despite having the unfortunate release timing of just a few days before This Is the End.
Rapture-Palooza follows Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley), a young likable couple who are unfortunately left behind after God’s chosen few ascend to heaven during The Rapture. In this end-of-days scenario, Lindsey and Ben have to learn to live with minor inconveniences like downpouring blood rain, swarms of locusts, meteors, foul-mouthed crows and the occasional pot smoking wraith, proving that life isn’t all that different post-Rapture than it is for us these days. Looking to start a life on their own, Lindsey and Ben begin their own sandwich cart business, but their dreams are cut short after an errant meteorite destroys their enterprise.
With Ben’s dad (Rob Corddry) already employed by the Anti-Christ (Craig Robinson), the couple decide to take a job at The Unholy One’s compound so they can continue to save money for their future. Of course, this doesn’t necessarily work out for the young lovers as the Anti-Christ sets his sights on the lovely Lindsey, wanting to make her his bride for eternity, which of course doesn’t sit well with Ben. It’s soon up to the young man to devise a plan that not only defeats his new nemesis but also rescues his beloved from an eternity of hellish affection.
Rapture-Palooza is a high-concept comedy that plays out with a cartoonish and likable energy but is unfortunately hindered by a limited budget that never allows this world to fully open up and a script by Chris Matheson that struggles for the first two acts to find its footing. That’s not to say that Rapture-Palooza is a total misfire – it’s not and in fact plays great as a Friday night movie at home – but it never quite reaches the theatrical feeling I suspect Middleditch was going for all along, making the final product feel very restricted due its limited production means.
The cast members in Rapture-Palooza are the film’s saving grace, with a veritable “who’s who” in comedy featured throughout; both Kendrick and Daley are great together with Kendrick further proving once again that’s she is absolutely ready to step into more leading roles. Robinson is blisteringly funny as the buffoonish Anti-Christ who is as deadly as he is charismatic, and the entire roster of supporting players – from Corddry to Rob Heubel (who is at the top of his game here) to Tom Lennon (“Reno 911’”s Lieutenant Dangle) to Paul Scheer to Tyler Labine – add some of their own hilarious flavor to the script, making for a steady flow of chuckles for audiences. Even Ken Jeong (an actor I’ve been “over” with for a few years now) brings in an understated sense of comedic timing to his role, which was a nice surprise.
And while some of the film’s side gags are less effective than perhaps Middleditch and Matheson had imagined they’d play out, Rapture-Palooza is a film worth sticking though as the third act goes for broke and delivers many of the story’s biggest laughs while Ben and Lindsey’s plan of action against the Anti-Christ comes together only to fall apart in spectacularly hilarious fashion, ending far stronger than it started. With an ensemble packed to the gills with some of the funniest people working today, Rapture-Palooza is definitely a movie worth checking out if you can keep your expectations in check for the low-budget comedy. It may not be the biggest or the most polished apocalypse movie of this summer, but it’s definitely worth checking out all the same.
3 out of 5