Notable Cast: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Sigourney Weaver, Alia Shawkat, Isiah Whitlock Jr.
Review: Miguel Arteta (Youth In Revolt) brings his unconventional comedy to yet another situation, this time making the world of insurance sales entertaining. Arteta loves taking the innocent character and thrusting them into the big bad world, corrupting them and bringing out their darker side if you will. And in the way that Michael Cera was on obvious pick for Youth In Revolt, Ed Helms just had to be the ungodly pur insurance salesman main character. But with that unique sense of humor Arteta implements in his films, could Cedar Rapids hook enough people in? I don’t see mainstream viewers going for this type of business/awkward comedy hybrid, but at the same time I see a select audience falling in love with the quaint likeability of Cedar Rapids.
Tim Lippe (Helms) is a small time insurance salesmen, stuck in the shadows of a local hotshot. All his life Tim has dreamed of doing big things with his “pre-engaged” girlfriend Macy (Weaver), but just never got out of his mundane situation. But all that changes when Tim gets the opportunity to attend an insurance company conference in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where they hand out the coveted Two Diamonds Award to the best insurance company in contention. Representing Brown Valley, Tim sets off for Cedar Rapids with the hopes of nailing his Two Diamond presentation. But when he arrives, Tim realizes how out of his element he is upon meeting roommate Dean Ziegler (Reilly), the wild party animal of the Cedar Rapids convention. But when Tim starts to see the convention isn’t as professional as he believed, it becomes harder and harder not to give into the temptations of Ziegler. Tim has worked hard his whole life and tried to be the best person he though he could be, but in Cedar rapids he learns a whole new way to appreciate life.
John C. Reilly pretty much does his best Dale Doback in Dean Ziegler….
When it comes down to it though, Cedar Rapids is a delightful comedy. Where I wasn’t a huge fan of Youth In Revolt, I thought Arteta’s style fit Cedar Rapids rather well. He could get away with making Helm’s character Tim the naive small town bumpkin because it was believable that someone could act exactly like Tim in real life. There was something endearing about Tim, and his character hooks you in because you actually care to see him change. It was so easy to root for the underdog, but at the same time you wanted to see him break out of his shell for the comedy. Again though I draw similarities from Helms to Cera, both having those personalities that are prefect to become typecast. Helms does his part so well of the up tight nerd if you will (see to The Hangover and The Office), so I’d be afraid to see him keep getting stuck in roles such as this and killing all his momentum early. But for the time being, Helms was a perfect fit for Tim Lippe, bringing a sort of childish charm and wonderment to the character. He’s good at playing pure, wholesome characters and turning them around to a degree, but again that’s what I’m worried about. No one can really generate the same effect in the character like he can, so I’m really interested to see the next couple of roles he takes.
But the film doesn’t rest on Helms’ shoulders alone. The presence of John C. Reilly always ensures laughs, and he certainly delivers here. A role like Dean Ziegler is perfect for Reilly, doing better with roles that set him apart from others. Ziegler’s party animal character is obviously the polar opposite of Helms’ Tim, and the dynamic between them plays well as you try and figure out if Ziegler is a villain or a savior. And hey Anne Heche! I have to admit, I saw the character of Joan and at first had no idea it was her. Heche plays the female insurance shark coming to Cedar Rapids for a good time, and she plays in very well with the ensemble, going toe to toe with John C. Reilly for comedic screen dominance. Isiah Whitlock Jr. (really only known for bit parts in TV/film such as “The Wire”/”Onion SportsDome”) rounds out the main group of characters, playing work focused Ronald aka the whitest African-American character ever created. The group of them together work in a hilarious business type of way, because you have every key of the demographic. The party business man, the reluctant business woman, the work-only business man, and Tim, the innocent businessman yet to really enter the true business world. Going into the business industry, it will be interesting to see where I fall in….
Cedar Rapids gets its points based on the fact that director Arteta and writer Phil Johnston made the small town insurance game into an engaging comedy. But not only the comedy was well written. Yes, it was very nicely utilized to not only have ridiculous comedy but also heartfelt and uptight comedy, but Cedar Rapids held even more than that. The story of Cedar Rapids has the emotional undertones of watching someone realize the world isn’t all peaches and cream, and people aren’t always what they seem. It shows that naivety is something that can lead to mixed emotions, and keeping yourself in the dark doesn’t always mean you’re protecting yourself. The major selling point for Cedar Rapids turns out to be the cast though, surprise surprise. Each character meshes together in their own weird way and form a lovable group of salesmen that we get to watch off the clock. Don’t think this is a boring story about a bunch of salesman fighting for some prestigious award. It poses questions about such topics as business corruption and business ethics, but the film never takes a depressing path. Cedar Rapids takes emotional twists and turns, but overall is an enjoyable comedy experience with a glimpse into small-town mentalities trying to hack it in the “big world” of Cedar Rapids.
Final Rating: 7.5 Cream Cherry shots out of 10
Yeah, that seems way better than an insurance meeting…