The latest in a string of audience-of-none, end-is-nigh indie dramedies, “Rapture-Palooza” strains to find comedy in the book of Revelation, tracking a contempo young couple besieged by CG locusts, rains of blood and a horny Beast obsessed with booty sex. More irrelevant than irreverent, the unworthy script from “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure’s” Chris Matheson might play to apocalyptically stoned college kids, but offers nothing in the way of broader social satire, suggesting the waste of a perfectly good Reckoning — not to mention the talents of a cast far funnier than the doom-and-gloom results suggest.
Pushing-30 teens Lindsey (Anna Kendrick) and Ben (John Francis Daley) are bowling when the Rapture strikes. The devout are whisked straight to heaven, while the rest are left to fend for themselves in a world more or less unchanged, if you can look past the meteor showers and zombie-like wraiths. The two dream of opening a food stand and getting hitched, but they worry about the second coming of God (“The Hangover’s” Ken Jeong) and a self-appointed Antichrist named Earl, aka “the Beast” (Craig Robinson, also in Sony’s upcoming Rapture farce “This Is the End”).
While severely limited by a tight visual-effects budget, director Paul Middleditch does this high-concept comedy no favors by shooting the Vancouver-based, Seattle-set scenario like a glorified viral video, miscalculating that a cast composed almost entirely of comics will supply enough laughs for audiences to overlook the lackluster production values. Their off-the-cuff-sounding repartee does find traction in a few spots, as when Ben’s dad (Rob Corddry) gets caught in a cycle of snippy insults with a wraith guard (Paul Scheer) outside the Beast’s estate. Too often, however, the actors are left stranded, allowed to embarrass themselves while riffing along vaguely raunchy tangents.
As Lindsey’s mom, Ana Gasteyer has only one function: to wail about being rejected by heaven. As her husband, John Michael Higgins gets a few pratfalls before being crushed by a stray meteor. Without providing the ensemble with anything especially amusing to do, Middleditch almost seems to be counting on the viewer to recognize a normally funny actor, say to themselves, “Oh right, he was really funny in that other movie,” and enjoy a nostalgic chuckle on the fumes of that previous project. How else to explain the grievous treatment of Robinson, reduced here to slavering over Kendrick’s character while the rest of the cast scrambles to protect her anal virginity.
Robinson pantomimes his crude plan of attack and proceeds in slow-motion seduction mode, offering up a sultry, sub-Marvin Gaye piano ditty while extending the last half-hour of this taxing comedy into one long would-be rape gag. Jokes seeded in the opening reel circle back at the end, but instead of paying off in clever ways, they reveal how clumsy the whole enterprise has been. If God came down tomorrow and took all the good movies up to heaven, all copies of “Rapture-Palooza” (along with the entire Rob Schneider oeuvre) would surely be left behind.