We Netflixed This: We’re so, so sorry you made ‘Rapture-Palooza,’ Anna Kendrick

Netflix is usually the place where the bored and relaxed go to indulge in their usual comforts. A season of a TV show you liked five years ago here, a movie starring your favorite actor there. You don’t necessarily see people leave their typical likes and dislikes.

Why not use Netflix to try and discover new movies and shows that you’d never find in your “Because you watched…” folders and take a look at some of the truly weird stuff the medium has to offer? That’s what AP Party contributor Steve Lepore and Samantha Murray thought. In “We Netflixed This,” they’ll examine some of the various oddities (and possible secretly great films) available to us, thanks to Netflix’s ability to watch everything forever.

The Film: Rapture-Palooza. Written by Chris Matheson (Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure) and directed by commercial helmer Paul Middleditch, the movie appears to be to last year’s apocalypse hit This is the End what Observe and Report was to Paul Blart: Mall Cop. A cast of Apatow-ian/Adult Swim B- and C-listers negotiate through the heartwarming story of a young woman who tries to avoid being seduced by the Anti-Christ in the midst of the world’s end.

Cast: Anna Kendrick, Craig Robinson, John Francis Daley, Rob Huebel, Rob Corddry, Paul Scheer and Ken Jeong.

Netflix Rating: Somehow, four stars.

Steve Lepore: Before we watch this movie, we’re about to watch what might be the first major misstep of Anna Kendrick’s career. We are young people on the internet, so I think it’s no secret that we enjoy her, correct?

Samantha Murray: I LOVE HER. She’s actually an interesting case where I love her independently from the work she does, because I just think she’s delightful. The way she talks in interviews and the way that she tweets, she sounds like one of my friends. I’m looking over her filmography now and I actually haven’t seen… a lot of this. But good will from Pitch Perfect will probably carry her until the end of time with me.

Steve Lepore: I will add to this discussion before we go on that I have seen Up in the Air and I think, while she got an Oscar nomination for it, I don’t necessarily think she gets appreciated enough for her role in it. Pitch Perfect is also great to me, obviously, and she’s delightful in interviews.

*90 mostly joyless minutes pass*

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SL: Okay. Let’s try and not make this all about how badly it suffers in comparison to This is the End (released 10 days earlier in 2013), but I think the key takeaway here is that there’s a difference between a movie coming off as effortless (much like This is the End feels) and a movie just not trying?

SM: I can’t decide if I think that the movie didn’t try or if they did and it just fell SO flat. I feel like the movie was off to a somewhat clever start. The parts about them trying to live a day-to-day life during a drawn out Apocalypse and the inconvenience of having rains of blood or meteorites falling out of the sky were enjoyable at first. There were a lot of bits of dialogue or little twists later on that I thought were excruciating, but I can kind of see someone chuckling to themselves like, “It’ll be SO FUNNY to see Craig Robinson say this to Anna Kendrick.”

It felt really low budget, obviously, but I can’t tell if the overall suck was a full lack of effort or just self-indulgence. The whole thing was like an SNL skit — moments of humor that are then dragged out for so long that you can’t remember what it was like to be happy.

SL: The movie is low-budget, but I felt like there was a small attempt to give it some visual flair. I don’t want to go too hard on the director in this case, because honestly, I think a lot of people are trying their best for a script that really doesn’t deserve it. Which, in a way, makes it even sadder.

SM: Should’ve saved some money on the talking locusts and done literally anything else with it.

SL: Here’s a touchy subject I want to bring up: The movie strikes a really weirdly conservative tone despite being essentially an atheist’s wet dream — SPOILER ALERT: God and the Devil both die at the end! — right? I don’t try to read too much into what is a mess of a script, but there’s a lot of really out of left field conservatism in the midst of Craig Robinson creepily trying to have sex with Anna Kendrick.

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SM: There are weird bursts of it that feel less tongue-in-cheek than other parts do. Having the Antichrist be a black politician with a “Yes, I can” slogan could be a funny jab at the Fox News crowd, but I think its real conservatism showed surrounding Anna Kendrick’s character. There’s a lot of emphasis placed on her being a virgin for what feels like no reason. Every discussion of sex is immediately followed by talking about marriage and children.

When she talks about moving out of her parents’ house, her immediate suggestion to John Francis Daley is that they should get married and start a family… in the middle of the Apocalypse. When the Beast sees her, like three innuendos later, he’s ALSO talking about marrying her and having children. I feel like the Antichrist is more of a love ’em and leave ’em type.

There’s also that moment when Daley tells her that she looks “slutty,” when she comes out wearing a white dress with cleavage that goes down to her knee. I feel “hot” would have sufficed.

SL: I googled “Anna Kendrick Rapture-Palooza interview” and found nothing, and it’s pretty easy to see why. Her character, ostensibly asked to carry the movie, has no motivation for anything she does. She’s not particularly religious, but apparently wants to save herself for marriage and wants a family and children! I spent half the movie assuming John Francis Daley’s character’s name was “Babe,” given how often she addresses him as such.

The only motivation any character in this movie seems to have comes down to either “Desire to have sex with Anna Kendrick” or “Help the Anti-Christ, while sort of disapproving of him.”

Without really getting into Craig Robinson — whom I think we both agree is probably just trying as hard as he can with some awful material — what the hell were the trying to do with his Anti-Christ character?

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Again, very little motivation for anything. He’s an Idaho politician who divorces his wife and decides he needs another heir because the son he has is “a dud,” something the movie at no point really gives away, despite a half-hearted attempt. And then, all of a sudden, Anna Kendrick (who up until then is about as plain as you can make Anna Kendrick in this) is THE ONE for seemingly no reason.

SM: I wonder if women were disproportionately raptured in this universe. I don’t recall seeing a single one other than her mother, who was raptured and then sent back for being a complainer. She may be The One as in she’s ACTUALLY the only woman left that isn’t his ex-wife.

SL:  This movie really doesn’t pass the Bechdel test. Anna Kendrick’s character HAS A LIVING MOTHER IN HER HOUSE, and they have a total of one conversation in the entire movie, and the entire extent of the conversation is that she’s okay with her daughter boning the Anti-Christ because she can’t deal with any more bad things happening…

SM: The conversation between the only two women was about a man (beast?). Ergo, Bechdel test failed.

SL: We talked about how much we like Anna Kendrick before this, and how often you tend to separate it from her work. She’s just kind of going through the motions here and not great, but certainly not given anything to work with. The film was in production around 2011, which means it was in production pre-Pitch Perfect, so while Kendrick was already an Oscar nominee, her comedy bonafides weren’t necessarily known, and it’s not like good leading female comedy roles are bursting at the seams in Hollywood anyway. That’s, I think, what this can be chalked up to.

SM: I can see how she wound up here. I also think that her role even almost distances itself from the rest of the fray. She’s the wry narrator and the one who’s often calling things out, like when her boyfriend’s dad is talking about how great it is to work for the Beast, she gets the lines like, “He’s the most evil person who has ever lived.” She spends a lot of time as the Voice of Reason character while everyone else spirals out.

I could also see her doing it for kicks. Pleasant people are involved and obviously it’s not supposed to be taken too seriously, its name is RAPTURE PALOOZA.

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SL: I guess we have to decide, then, where we fall on this? Is it offensive? At a certain point, I could barely care enough to be offended, but does it rank among the worst movies you’ve ever seen?

SM: It’s… adequate background noise? I don’t know. It’s not the worst movie I’ve ever seen, but I checked the progress meter a couple times to see how much longer it was going to be.

Anna Kendrick is delightful and she and JFD are a cute couple when you can deal with the fact that he’s not Sam Weir anymore, but I could leave… pretty much everything else. I want to see them in something else.

SL: I guess nobody’s really trying to hurt anyone here, so yeah, I agree on the background noise. But it should be noted just how grossly the sexual material is used in this movie. You start to feel bad for Anna Kendrick after a while, because it’s so… juvenile. The writer of this film writes about sexual desires, marijuana consumption and violence, and from the words his characters say, it doesn’t sound like he’s experienced any of those things.

SM: We also can’t let Craig Robinson get away with his subpar piano song (compared to This is the End’s far superior “Take Yo’ Panties Off”). And the way he talks to Anna Kendrick’s character about her pubic hair just… did not need to happen. That wasn’t even good for a cheap laugh. Although I guess it did make him more convincing as the Anti-Christ, because during all that dialogue, I was like… wow, you’re right, this is the worst person on Earth.

SL: The problem is that you’ve already dismissed the movie too easily to care how the characters are handled. The end of this movie is literally Ken Jeong and Craig Robinson throwing their B-material and terribly choreographed fight moves until they both die.

After all that, Rob Corddry hugs Rob Huebel and whispers, “It’s over,” and you can only assume he is talking to the audience as well.

Other Assorted Thoughts:

  • Murray: “I feel like Craig Robinson’s playing the Anti-Christ as if Cee-Lo were the Anti-Christ.”
  • Rob Corddry, 43, plays the father of John Francis Daley, 28.
  • Early on, we both agreed that the Anti-Christ’s positions — abolishing the penny and getting rid of Peeps — are more than reasonable, which says a lot about us given where the character went.
  • Ana Gasteyer plays Kendrick’s mom. She literally shrieks for the entire movie, and then it’s suddenly discovered that weed will calm her down. Original.
  • We both laughed at the line, “kayak the blood river.” Sue us.

About Steve Lepore

Steve Lepore is a writer for Bloguin and a correspondent for SiriusXM NHL Network Radio.