2013 seems to be the year of end-of-the-world comedies, and while that may be a sure sign of the end times at least we’ll go out laughing. Edgar Wright’s The World’s End opens later this summer, the very funny This Is the End hits theaters next week, and the even better It’s a Disaster was just released on Blu-ray/DVD. It really is a fine time for fans of the apocalypse.
The fourth entry (or second if you’re going chronologically) is Paul Middleditch’s Rapture-Palooza.
Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley) are young and in love, but unlike the billion or more young couples that came before them these two are seeing their romance blossom amidst the events foretold in the Book of Revelation. The undead roam the streets, foul-mouthed locusts and crows berate the survivors, and occasionally large, flaming rocks fall from the sky to crush food carts. As bad as things are though, they get even worse when the anti-christ (Craig Robinson) points his erection Lindsey’s direction determined to have her even if that means eliminating Ben and anyone else standing in the way.
Ben’s dad (Rob Corddry) works for the anti-christ as a glorified pool man, and he gives the couple a tour of big red’s mansion in an effort to impress. It’s there where the son of Satan first sets his horny eyes on the Pitch Perfect star, and while no one would blame him for his instant obsession the way he goes about wooing her, threatening to kill everyone she cares about, is more than a little out of line. Ben and Lindsey set in motion a plan to defeat the anti-christ, and in the process they just might throw a wrench into the whole Revelations thing too.
The most appealing aspect here is the ensemble that combines a pair of unexpected leads with a supporting cast whose natural resting state is being funny. Kendrick has slowly but surely been proving herself as leading lady material, and she’s always shown a sharp wit. She makes a delightful soul mate for Daley who’s deserving of more post-Freaks & Geeks praise. He still has that innocent-looking face, but he’s allowed to be a bit more flexible with the words that come of his child-like mouth. (Is that a weird thing to say?)
In addition to Robinson (who’s also in next week’s Rapture-themed comedy, This Is the End, alongside some other Freaks & Geeks alumni) and Corddry, the film boasts a strong roster of laugh-inducing actors. Thomas Lennon, Ana Gasteyer and Paul Scheer all bring some chuckles, but it’s Rob Huebel who manages to pretty much steal multiple scenes with his ridiculously perfect comic timing and delivery. Another familiar face shows up towards the end, and while he/she’s at risk of overexposure in pop culture these days he/she is spot on in a brief role here.
While the cast is strong throughout Chris Matheson’s script takes the first two acts to really find its rhythm. A loose, casual feel permeates the first hour, and while there are a smattering of laughs to be found it feels a bit too much like a sketch run amok. Some of the side gags are less effective than the filmmakers think, and a few bits get reused a bit too frequently. Stick with it though as the film’s third act goes for broke and delivers the film’s biggest laughs as Ben and Lindsey’s plan comes together only to fall apart in spectacular fashion.
Rapture-Palooza has the misfortune of opening the week before a much higher profile comedy with the same premise, but fans of laughter and of this cast should make a point to seek it out all the same. It’s a relatively low-key and clearly low budget affair, but cheap laughs are still laughs.
The Upside: Strong cast featuring some very funny people; final act offers several laugh out loud bits of dialogue; foul mouthed locusts are quite entertaining; Rob Huebel
The Downside: First hour manages a fairly low laugh rate (but a steady stream of smiles)
On the Side: Writer Chris Matheson is the son of legendary author Richard Matheson and brother to Richard Christian Matheson who wrote Three O’Clock High.
Rapture-Palooza opens in Los Angeles Theatres and On Demand June 7th