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2013 | 83 min | R | 2.39:1



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Theatrical release date

 07 June, 2013

Country of origin

 United States



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Screenshots from Rapture-Palooza Blu-ray

Rapture‑Palooza Preview  

 / 10
Preview by Brian Orndorf, June 10, 2013

The release of “Rapture-Palooza” displays some interesting timing, quickly ushered into theaters within the same week Seth Rogen’s “This Is the End,” another end-of-days comedy, makes its big debut. Making the situation even more uncomfortable, the dueling doomsday movies share a lead actor in Craig Robinson, who also takes an executive producer credit on “Rapture-Palooza.” The competition is unfortunate, since one film is authentically funny, features some sense of imagination when it comes to the grim details of the apocalypse, and provides a fantastically game all-star cast of funny folk, while the other effort is “Rapture-Palooza.”

The Rapture has begun, with the righteous ascending to Heaven while heathens suffer on Earth. In Seattle, couple Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley) endure a daily ritual avoiding taunting locusts-with-human-faces, blood rain, cursing crows, deadly Wraiths, and fiery rocks plummeting from the sky, hoping to one day open a sandwich cart to feed those left behind. Coming to claim the planet is the Anti-Christ, also known as the Beast (Craig Robinson), who’s enjoying his time as the leader of Hell on Earth, employing a few hapless humans as security, including Ben’s father, Mr. House (Rob Corddry). When Lindsay catches the Beast’s eye, the demon attempts to woo the virginal young woman, with plans to make her his queen. Fearing the details of such as position, Lindsay works with Ben to concoct a plan that’ll imprison the Beast in their backyard kennel for 1,000 years, using the undead (including Thomas Lennon) and pothead Wraiths as help to pull off an impossible task. Sexing herself up to appeal to the grotesque appetites of the Beast, Lindsay soon realizes she’s in over her head, with Ben’s progress blocked by buffoonery and his father’s panicky interference.

Although the script is credited to Chris Matheson (“Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”), I wonder just how much of his original dialogue made it into the final film. Instead of a refined, taut sense of humor, “Rapture-Palooza” is an extended make-em-up movie, with long stretches of the picture surrendered to painful improvisational wind sprints from a cast made up of sketch and stage comedy specialists (also including Ana Gasteyer, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer, and Ken Jeong) seemingly tasked to improve on the script by director Paul Middleditch whenever possible. While far from exhausting, it’s dispiriting to find a lively premise ruined by actors trained to curse and make lewd comments (Robinson’s Beast keep referencing anal sex around Lindsay) instead of master ace punchlines, trying to keep “Rapture-Palooza” as low-brow as possible as a way of communicating silliness. Matheson aims to build a farce, but the feature doesn’t follow his lead, blowing some interesting asides of insanity (Beast has a laser cannon constructed in his back yard to blast Jesus out of the sky) on trendy, flaccid riffing.

“Rapture-Palooza” is shockingly short (78 minutes long), but don’t let its brevity fool you. Middleditch barely makes a dent in the potential of the piece, bound by a restrictive budget and a general fear of encouraging the screenplay’s weirdness in full. It’s something of a sarcastic picture, treating the grim particulars of the Rapture as business as usual, with humanity attempting to shuffle along despite nightmarish experiences with macabre and the moronic, while Lindsay’s mother is actually returned to Earth after her demanding behavior in Heaven. Perhaps the most intriguing element of the feature is its treatment of atheism, finding Lindsay and Ben passed over for redemption due to their disbelief -- a decision they question throughout the story. Matheson has some fun ideas and a curiosity to see how far he can push the madness before it loses its elasticity. It’s a shame he didn’t direct the effort himself, as Middleditch treats the whole production as more of a vulgar television movie, forgoing cinematic flair.

“Rapture-Palooza” attempts some mighty acts of Heaven vs. Hell slapstick in its climax, which would hold greater surprise if the film didn’t expose the story’s conclusion in its opening minutes -- a needless flash-forward that spoils the ending. However, to grumble about the feature’s finale is useless, as the whole endeavor is poorly constructed and apathetic, believing in the comfort of random shock value instead of taking the time to wind up the insanity with ingenuity, making it the Rapture movie to beat in a summer of, amazingly, two choices. Perhaps this is why Robinson decided to hedge his bet and perform in both productions.

Starring: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, John Francis Daley, Ken Jeong, Rob Corddry, Thomas Lennon (III)
Director: Paul Middleditch

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