Rapture Palooza from writer Chris Matheson (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and director Paul Middleditch (Separation City) is a lot like the old “Donny and Marie” TV variety show from the late 1970s. The difference is that Donny and Marie were “a little bit country and a little bit rock and roll” and Rapture Palooza is a little bit Dogma, a little bit of Shaun of the Dead, with some stoner comic relief stirred in.
Starring Anna Kendrick as “Lindsey” and John Francis Daley (“Bones) as her boyfriend “Ben” this is a story of what happens when those who get to church every single Sunday are finally rewarded by being ‘raptured’ up to Heaven. Roughly a billion of them are. Including Lindsey’s mother “Mrs. Lewis” (Gasteyer) who winds up being sent back. Soon the entire world is yet again a dystopian nightmare where the “Anti-Christ” (Robinson) rules, sends profane crows and extremely annoying insects out to torture the remaining people.
Lindsey and Ben decide they’re going to start a little business, save some money and move out of the homes of their parents (although Ben’s mom managed to stay in Heaven), into their own place. But those flaming rocks that fall from the sky seemingly at random ruin their plans. No problem says Ben’s father “Mr. House” (Corddry), who is now working for the Anti-Christ. He will secure employment for them with his boss.
Yes, the Anti-Christ has taken up residence in Seattle and he is instantly smitten when he sees Lindsey. He wants to marry her, so she can give him evil children. Many evil children. Lindsey wants nothing to do with the idea, but when he threatens to kill everyone she knows if she doesn’t marry him, she stalls for time. Then she and Ben come up with a plan to prevent the marriage and as a bonus, save the world. It involves using the fact that the Anti-Christ’s wraiths are extreme pot-heads, and his other guards can be distracted by the neighbor “Mr. Murphy” (Lennon). He’s now a zombie but he doesn’t go around eating people’s brains. Instead he has an amazingly single-minded focus on one particular task. The question is, will the plan work?
There are moments of Rapture Palooza that are riddled with brilliance. Very well-written satire and the players execute those moments flawlessly. There are also moments (only a few) where the material is nowhere near as good. Wild inconsistency is the only reason this film doesn’t earn a rating of 4. It’s a bit short at roughly 84 minutes and more exposition would have improved some of the characters. It isn’t laugh out loud funny either (with a small number of exceptions), but it is smart and fun.