While out bowling one night Lindsay (Anna Kendrick) and her boyfriend Ben (John Francis Daley) suddenly find themselves in the midst of the Biblical End of Days otherwise known as the Rapture. All the righteous church-going folk are promptly sucked straight to heaven leaving the non-believers behind. In a biblical first, Lindsay’s mother (Ana Gasteyer) is actually sent back to Earth for bad behaviour. Meanwhile her father (John Michael Higgins) falls victim to one of the crashing meteors among an array of biblical horrors now plaguing the planet including blood rain, foul-mouthed crows, abusive locusts, the walking dead and rampaging wraiths that spend most of their time trying to score weed off local stoners like Lindsay’s half-wit brother (Calum Worthy). In the midst of a seemingly endless apocalyptic nuisances, Lindsay and Ben start planning for a brighter future but then the Antichrist (Craig Robinson) takes control of the world and moves to Seattle.
Evidently if there is an apocalypse unfolding then Craig Robinson is your go-to guy. As well as appearing as part of a starry ensemble in This Is the End, Robinson also headlined 2013’s other, lesser known end-of-the-world themed comedy on which he was also the executive producer. Despite the presence of rising star Anna Kendrick and a supporting cast of substantial comic talent, Rapture-Palooza was overshadowed by the more high profile Seth Rogen comedy and had only limited theatrical screenings before its DVD release. It is a scattershot satire that misses as many targets as it hits. Things open promisingly with some inspired ideas and snarky gags questioning the underlining morality of the Biblical apocalypse. These are questions worth asking by aetheists and Christians alike. Such as for what purpose does a seemingly capricious God inflict such suffering upon humanity including a basically decent and kind-hearted young couple like Lindsay and Ben? How does random retribution for human transgressions come to define morality?
Chris Matheson’s screenplay briefly ponders the question of what it means to be good in a truly amoral world but makes no real attempt to engage in a substantial theological debate beyond the belated arrival of God played by Ken Jeong as an abrasive, self-righteous jerk inexplicably susceptible to electric shocks. As a consequence the film’s conclusion that even if religion is right about the big questions we are all still basically better off without it comes across as pat and simplistic as a fundamentalist’s dismissal of evolution. Like many stoner comedies the plot segues into a series of random absurdities and an obsession with dick and rape jokes. Most of the humour involves Robinson’s Antichrist and his outrageously offensive attempts at courting Lindsay who faces the dilemma of marrying the Devil and bearing his offspring or seeing her loved ones killed. Director Paul Middleditch keeps things visually interesting while leads John Francis Daley and the always watchable Anna Kendrick charmingly deadpan and likeable. The supporting cast including comedians Rob Corddry, Rob Huebel, Paul Scheer and Tyler Labine rip into their roles with gusto but the film rarely rises above mildly amusing and proves rather toothless as satire. Outtakes included on the DVD show the cast clearly had a great time making this and the audio commentary is worth listening to with Robinson, Huebel and Corddry enjoying copious cocktails, cheering their onscreen antics and lamenting the absence of any gratuitous sex scenes with Anna Kendrick.