“Cedar Rapids” Movie Review

    “Cedar Rapids” is a film many people will see as similar in style and execution to  films like “Napoleon Dynamite” and “The 40 Year Old Virgin.”  Still, there is quite a bit of originality here and the cast that includes Ed Helms (The Hangover) and John C. Reilly (Cyrus) is more than game.  The laughs are not rapid fire, but they are there to be had in yet another story about the naive.

     Tim Lippe (Helms) is an insurance salesman who has lived in Brown Valley, Wisconsin for his entire life and at 34 years old has never left the town once.  This means he has never been on an airplane.  He has never stayed in a hotel.  I guess the proverbial “cherry on top” to further make Tim seem like the ultimate sheltered guy is his “pre-engagement” to his recently divorced 7th grade teacher Millie (Sigourney Weaver)!  So you get the idea that putting Tim into a situation out of his comfort zone would produce hilarious results and it sometimes does.

    When an unexpected death occurs to the usual company representative at the annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, Tim is sent in his place and is given by his boss the added pressure of securing the companies 4th consecutive “Two Diamond Award.”  Upon arrival, Tim is clearly out of his element and though he is told to steer clear of certain people, he doesn’t have the social skills to thwart their attacks and thus ends up befriending them.  These individuals are other insurance company reps and include Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), Joan (Anne Heche) and Ronald (Isiah Whitlock).  Each of these characters and their interactions with Tim provide the set up for the funniest parts of the film. 

     As usual, Reilly is hilarious as the repulsive and disgusting Ziegler.  He pushes himself on people and forces them to be his friend, but he always means well.  The typical life of the party guy that doesn’t have a bad bone in his body.  Heche is also a welcome surprise in the film.  Her Joan is an insurance rep from Omaha, Nebraska who is married with children and uses this annual convention as her one week escape from her life at home.  This, of course, means not acting as though she is married and looking for someone to seduce and you might guess Tim becomes her main target.  Ronald (Wilkes) is more or less the guy who serves as Tim’s conscience throughout the film, acting as the advice giving “angel” to Ziegler’s “devil”.  All of these main players are given their time to shine throughout the film thanks to funny and very original script by Phil Johnston.

     Overall, “Cedar Rapids” is a very solid entry into the early spring crowd of ho-hum films.  A hidden gem if you will in a sea of lesser films.  Because of the limited run and independent nature of the film, I’m thinking many won’t see this one at the theater and that makes for a solid run on home video.  Cedar Rapids is not one of those films you’ll always remember, but it does serve as a solid comedy featuring many current and rising stars.  It’s interesting that all three of the main guys from “The Hangover” are now headlining their own feature films.  Whereas Bradley Cooper has chosen action films and Zach Galifianakis has chosen to star in high concept tent pole type comedies, Ed Helms has chosen to stick with his roots and continue to do the more independent features.  With “The Hangover 2” looming in the near future, I tend to feel Helms is putting out the better product when compared to the other two.  This is  because films like “Cedar Rapids” expose us to characters who are much more like ourselves in everyday life, rather than what we dream to be.  GRADE: B