I span the random film selection generator the other day, well, I scrolled down Netflix until something caught my eye… regardless, Rapture-Palooza was the film that came up. I remembered seeing the trailers and thinking it could be a fun enough film. Could tell what sort of humour to expect and that’s really the most important part of a comedy film trailer. So Rapture-Palooza became the film I would watch. Click the link below for what is effectively one long audible sigh.
In Rapture-Palooza young couple Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley) are coping with life after the rapture actually happens. All the God fearing people of Earth that led a morally good life were suddenly lifted into heaven leaving behind anyone that didn’t follow the word of The Lord. The apocalypse is in full effect complete with raining blood (Which should please Slayer) and foul mouthed crows. The Anti-Christ has appeared in the form of a politician named Earle Gundy (Craig Robinson) and before long he has his sights set on marrying Lindsey in order to birth his own hell-spawn onto the Earth. It’s up to Lindsey and Ben to find a way of stopping The Beast, as he prefers to be called, without killing him. If The Beast is killed he’ll rise again as Satan, which would probably make this bad situation a little worse at least.
On paper Rapture-Palooza sounds like what should be a straight forward satire of religious rapture/end of the world themed movies. To some extent it is but largely the apocalypse itself is a surrounding device for some flimsy jokes to hang off of and an excuse for a few close minded views on religion to be thrown out there. Now, I’m not a religious person by any means. I find the whole thing a little silly to be honest, but, if religion guides you as a person and helps enrich your life I do not judge or condone. Unless you’re a Scientologist. That ain’t a real religion. Hell, spellchecker doesn’t even acknowledge it as a word. A troubling aspect of this film is that it does judge a little too much.
Without giving away the entire film the main thread running through the narrative is that the world would be much better off without all this religion stuff. That without a God and Devil there would be a lot less suffering. Most of the characters take the rapture itself as being this minor inconvenience in their lives. This is OK for comedic purposes but when characters barely react to the death of a family member for longer than one shot you’re then beginning to step away from the comedic as your characters begin to be painted as inhuman. The lets get on with it attitude begins to wear thin when no threat seems big enough to warrant any real reaction.
The film’s desire to avoid any and all human emotion leads to a set of characters that never once have a true human moment beyond highly exaggerated moments. Lindsey’s mother, Lora (Ana Gasteyer), is the only person sent back from heaven. Her reaction to this is to scream and cry all the time. This is as bad as the main characters not emoting because she has no baseline emotionally from which to come from. When characters only ever act one way for the whole film they become cardboard cut outs that we cannot connect with. Characters need to display various degrees of character, even if it is only a few small degrees, in order to seem human.
Another troublesome character is The Beast himself. When we first see him we get the feeling he could be the true comedic source of the film, which Craig Robinson is totally capable of being. We see him as a politician being over the top, flagrantly poisoning all of the remaining leaders and generally being a demonic version of President Camacho from Idiocracy. Unlike President Camacho he soon loses this potential charm and becomes a single joke repeated for an hour. I’m not even kidding when I say that he says almost nothing except sexual innuendos that border a little too close to being outright rape threats. We get that he is evil but you really can’t have the character display nothing but that one joke over and over. The jokes seem largely ad-libbed too suggesting one of those situations where the performer and the director (Paul Middleditch) are too in love with their own perceived talent to know what works and what doesn’t. Also, and I can’t stand bringing this sort of thing up but, you can’t have the only black character in your film be nothing but veiled sexual advances toward a small young woman. With nothing else for the character to be an uncomfortable pattern of writing emerges. I like Craig Robinson, as DJ Request in The Goods he pretty much provided that film’s only laughs, but he’s wasted in a shocking manner here.
The film is well shot and has a quite nice opening credit sequence featuring the formerly filled clothing of people in a bowling alley falling to the floor. Effects are ropey but they get the job done. The film likely had a fairly low budget anyway so we can let some dodgy CGI pass. Some of the jokes feel ripped right out of turn of the century stoner comedies, like Idle Hands for instance, but are falling 15 years too late to really work. Also, this film isn’t Idle Hands. Watch Idle Hands. Not one actor provides a memorable performance, with some just playing roles we’ve seen them play before, such as Rob Corddry playing a man who’s morals are corrupted out of cowardice. You know exactly how he performs that. By the time Ken Jeong turns up as God there’s a beat in the pacing of the editing as if they’re waiting for the howls of laughter at such a silly sight to die down. This is a beat more silent than the vacuum of space.
Rapture-Palooza fails on almost every level to be a film worth viewing. I’ve admitted before that humour is entirely subjective, so I’ll assume there are plenty of people out there that will really enjoy the film, but this should have been exactly my cup of tea. This is clearly meant to hit somewhere between the humour realms of Anchorman and South Park. Instead it lands somewhere between recent Adam Sandler and Schindler’s List. If you found Schindler’s List hilarious this is the film for you! The worst part of this is that Anna Kendrick has been dragged into it. She’s a quality comedic actress and quite a darn good actress actress. Her role isn’t too far removed from what you’d expect of her, but she’s totally wasted with little to work with. There’s only so many times she can look disgusted by a comment from The Beast after-all. Rapture-Palooza is a wasted chance that, thankfully, only took up 80 minutes of my life. I should have watched Singham like I planned.