Rapture-Palooza (2013) – Directed by Paul Middleditch – Starring Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, Ken Jeong, John Francis Daley, Rob Corddry, John Michael Higgins, Ana Gasteyer, Rob Heubel, Calum Worthy, and Thomas Lennon.
What could go wrong?
For the first 10 minutes or so, RAPTURE-PALOOZA (what is this, 1993?) works for me. The Rapture happens and leaves behind all the non-believers. Among them are Lindsey (Kendrick) and her boyfriend, Ben (John Francis Daley), who have an almost blasé attitude about what’s happened. Lindsey narrates these opening scenes, discussing the arrival of locusts and the skies raining blood with a detached, almost hipster-ish sense of being completely unimpressed with what’s happening. Being in academics, I’ve long been surrounded by a certain set of assholes who blather on about how the whole world is one big social construct; these are the same people who, if the Rapture really did happen, would freak, yet here’s Lindsey and Ben who just sort of accept what’s happened like the post-Rapture world is still just a construct that we have to suffer through.
I enjoyed seeing them drive around, watching Ben get worked up about the ineffectiveness of his windshield wipers in getting the blood rain cleared away while Lindsey sits in the passenger seat, patting his arm like this is just another slight overreaction to a ballgame.
There, there, the pat says, it’s not worth getting worked up about but I love you so I won’t call you out on it.
In contrast, Lindsey’s parents are given to freaking out about anything and everything. Her mom (Ana Gasteyer) was taken up to Heaven, but then sent back to Earth because of her poor attitude. She cries and wails about everything. Lindsey’s dad (John Michael Higgins) is an exacerbated iteration of Ben, having bigger reactions to smaller things, and Lindsey’s younger brother thinks it’s all a joke.
If RAPTURE-PALOOZA (what is this, 1994?) had stayed with this generation-based observational approach, this could have been an interesting movie. Lindsey and Ben’s dream to open their own food cart (because even at the end of the world, “people need a good sandwich”) is modest and sweet when set against flaming rocks falling from the sky and crushing her dad in their front yard. Both Lindsey and Ben still live in their parents’ house and Lindsey’s dream is to make enough money with the food cart for them to move out and get their own place.
It really is a good premise, and the film sets it up very well, but then a giant rock falls from the sky and destroys their food cart. To make money, they decide to go to work for the Anti-Christ with Ben’s dad (Rob Corddry).
The Anti-Christ (Robinson), who prefers to go by the name “The Beast,” has set up shop in Seattle and Ben’s dad has gone to work for him. Lindsey and Ben object to this, but largely present their disdain with soft, accusatory questions, as if Mr. House is a middle manager at Walmart. They’re disappointed in him for working for someone evil, and Lindsey casually points out, “He’s the most evil person who has ever lived.”
Mr. House’s response is pragmatic: “Well, then,” he remarks as they eat pizza that he certainly paid for, “the most evil person who has ever lived is paying the bills around here.”
I love Craig Robinson, but RAPTURE-PALOOZA (it can’t be later than 1995, can it?) goes in the toilet once the Beast sets eyes on Lindsey and decides he wants her to be his wife. It’s not that Robinson is bad, because he’s not. It’s more how his arrival shifts the comedy from dry and observational to crude and loud. When the film gives us Kendrick and Robinson, RAPTURE-PALOOZA (1996 would be pushing it) is still kinda funny. The best lewd scene in the film is when they’re having dinner and Kendrick unleashes as series of dry comments like “I want to blow up the whole world tonight” after he asks her which city she wants him to destroy. She gives the Beast a bit of what he wants to keep him distracted as she plots to trap him in a cage for 1,000 years. Maybe if RAPTURE-PALOOZE (1997 is when it started becoming cool for your parents and CBS to say “something-palooza”) had turned the tables a bit and had the Beast be this horrible guy who was actually really romantic despite being evil and vulgar, there would have been something here worth watching. When the Beast tells her that she looks like a cross between Scarlett Johansson and Hillary Swank, she actually seems kinda touched by it.
It’s the small moments where this movie works, but all of the plotting to trap the Beast and the unrelenting vulgarity from the Beast just aren’t fun to watch. I’m not a prude, but I also need more than naughty words strung together to make me laugh. When Ken Jeong shows up as God, the fight between him and Robinson is pretty good, but it’s definitely too little, too far off the rails to right the film.
RAPTURE-PALOOZA (was this named by a marketing guy who got high at Lollapalooza ’94 and declared he’d make a movie with “palooza” in the title, even if it took him 20 years to do it?) just doesn’t make me laugh all that much.