Tuesday, June 11, 2013

A Good Concept Goes A Long Way With Rapture-Palooza

The Good: Very funny, Wonderful concept, Decent effects
The Bad: No real character development, No superlative performances
The Basics: Rapture-Palooza presents life after the Rapture with a series of jokes that is assembled to make a thinly fleshed-out movie that is more funny than it is clever or substantive.

As I prepare to return to viewing and reviewing bigger films being released as part of Summer Blockbuster Season, I was delighted to discover there was a new indie comedy that had a premise that appealed to me. The movie was Rapture-Palooza and the concept of it was that survivors of the Rapture (humorously) take on the Anti-Christ. The cast – Anna Kendrick, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson, Tyler Labine, and Ana Gasteyer – immediately suggested to me that this little film would either be hilarious and a jewel or utterly dumb and a waste of time.

And, against all odds, Rapture-Palooza managed to end up smack in the middle.

Amidst a long string of dumb sex jokes and repetitive gags, Rapture-Palooza manages to satirize perfectly the Rapture-themed epics like Left Behind (reviewed here!) with enough style and flair to get completely under the radar of the Evangelicals. And, while I called one the most obvious and early jokes in the film (an easy one considering the film opens with a “Rapture Ready” preacher), it was nevertheless welcome when the set-up was delivered upon (said preacher appears late in the film, clearly not pious enough to have been chosen to be saved from the Rapture).

Opening with almost the very end of the film with Lindsey and her boyfriend, Ben, having just defeated the Anti-Christ, Rapture-Palooza flashes back for an extended period of exposition that is very funny and puts all of the appropriate elements in place for the film’s resolution. The Rapture came (on a bowling league night) and half the world’s population disappeared. The only person known to return is Lindsey’s mother, who got pissed that someone budged her in line for a heavenly massage and was sent back. The dead have risen, like Lindsey’s neighbor who just wants to mow his own lawn, even after teens steal his mower. Wraiths have descended to Earth as enforcers for the Anti-Christ, but Lindsey’s loser brother has managed to get them hooked on pot. So, treacherous men like Ben’s father work for the Anti-Christ (who has bombed Chicago and a few other cities after rising from being an Idaho politician named Earl to the most powerful man on the planet) and Lindsey and Ben have little to contend with other than the foul-mouthed crows and flaming rocks that fall from the sky and destroy their dream of owning a sandwich cart (and one that, incidentally, kills Lindsey’s father).

With their sandwich cart destroyed, Lindsey and Ben accompany Mr. House to the grounds of the Anti-Christ’s Seattle mansion where they plan to work just long enough to earn enough money to buy a new cart. There, though, they meet the Anti-Christ and when he discovers Lindsey is a virgin, he becomes obsessed with marrying her. Threatening her with the death of everyone alive she still knows and loves, Lindsey decides to marry and bed the Anti-Christ. In the eight hours before the Anti-Christ’s deadline expires, Lindsey and Ben hatch a daring plan to ensnare the Anti-Christ for his biblically-predicted thousand years . . . though things do not go quite like they planned!

First, Rapture-Palooza is funny and satirical, but is bears more in common with Miss March (reviewed here!) than it does with Religulous (reviewed here!). That is to say that the movie stops putting up the pretense of being religiously satirical and it instead delivers a series of jokes that are just foul-mouthed (the crows are hilarious, but basically just vulgar crows, and the Anti-Christ’s advances are more mortifying than even a shade of erotic), sexually-explicit (the Anti-Christ has quite the imaginative vocabulary when it comes to sex acts), and about being stoned. But, as someone who likes very few works where such humor is the norm, it is worth noting that Rapture-Palooza made it work.

In fact, Rapture-Palooza makes several stale conceits work. At the top of the list is the use of voiceovers. Because Anna Kendrick (Lindsey) is not performing in a fundamentally different way than she has on any number of her other recent projects, much of her part in the film that actually works comes from her delivering excessive amounts of exposition via voiceovers. Kendrick explains the new world moments before the viewer sees it unfold on the screen and yet, somehow she makes it work. Her voiceovers are engaging, informative, and expressive and that works perfectly for this particular comedy.

On the acting front, Rapture-Palooza is a great example of wonderful casting and mediocre acting. None of the performers deliver anything viewers have not seen from them before. For sure, they are playing to their strengths – Anna Kendrick is great at looking put off and sounds rational as she avoids the advances of the Anti-Christ (and she never quite manages to close her mouth fully, which is a new school of performing popularized by Mary-Louise Parker that I despise), Craig Robinson gets through some of the most raunchy lines without breaking and John Francis Daley plays the plausible underdog hero of the post-apocalypse by being a nice guy like he (almost) always plays.

Even without any shockingly good performances and much of the movie spent waiting for the Anti-Christ to show up in a purple suit to set up the end (if you’re going to start at the end, you pretty much have to expect viewers will catch the details you give them), Rapture-Palooza manages to be surprisingly funny when it is not being stupidly raunchy. One of the last great jokes of the film kept me laughing for a full twenty seconds (or more) and I cannot recall a movie in recent memory that had that effect on me. Rapture-Palooza is good escapist fare for those who find it hard to be offended by humor, but not at all a “must buy” when it hits DVD.

For other works with Anna Kendrick, be sure to check out my reviews of:
Pitch Perfect
What To Expect When You're Expecting
Breaking Dawn, Part 1
New Moon


For other movie reviews, please check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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