The film is very sweet and charming at times, a trait which is equaled by its crudeness and funny visual gags. It all comes together to form a well rounded but slightly flawed comedy which benefits from a very solid all round cast performance.
The story is of Tim Lippe (Helms), a naive native of a small town called Brown Valley. He’s never ventured past its borders, knows little of the world and is pre-engaged to his 7th grade teacher Millie Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver). Tim works for the successful Brown Star Insurance company, winner of the coveted Two Diamond award three years running thanks to the company’s golden boy Roger Lemke.
However, when Roger is found dead after “accidentally” choking himself with his belt, Tim is sent to Cedar Rapids to represent the company at an annual insurance convention and to bring home the Two Diamond award for the fourth time.
The film is then a journey of discovery for Tim as he comes under the guidance of three convention veterans: foul mouthed party animal Dean Ziegler (Reilly), seductive Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche) and straight talking nice guy Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr). As the film progresses Tim starts to bond with his new friends, discovers the pros and cons of alcohol, drugs and prostitutes and learns the ‘way of the convention’.
There are laughs a-plenty mixed up in the inevitable life lessons learned where Tim grows as a human being as well as a professional in the insurance business, but it all comes to a head when he is forced to face the reality of what he has to do – to bring home the Two Diamond Award for Brown Star.
There are some brilliant moments in Cedar Rapids. If you want some hilarious visual comedy – you got it, if you want some crude jokes and shock humor there’s some of that too, but the joy of the film is watching Tim truly understand not only the ‘way of the convention’ but also the importance of growing as a person. There are a lot of laughs, and a lot of heart too. Cedar Rapids worked very well for me and although it will inevitably take a back seat to the likes of Hangover 2 in terms of popularity and box office takings, it will offer more charm and charisma than most comedy films released this year.
I’m a huge fan of Ed Helms, his turn in The Hangover is legendary and his hilarious performances in the outstanding ‘The Office’ (the American version) are always incredibly memorable and one of the main reasons I keep watching it. In Cedar Rapids, Helms shows again what brilliant comic timing and delivery he has to make a character worth rooting for. The only issue I had with his performance is that at times Tim Lippe came across as being a mentally challenged and that he was a man with a child’s brain instead of someone lacking in life experience which is more a script issue than a performance one.
John C Reilly seemed to have the most fun in the film delivering some very (enjoyable) crude jokes and sight gags that worked for a majority of the film but wore thin as time went on. His character of Dean Zeigler lives for the Convention and has no ambition of gaining the Two Diamond award and that gave Reilly some freedom to just let loose and be the devil on Tim’s shoulder throughout – delivering a vast amount of the laughs in the film.
Given that Ed Helms and John C Reilly are the main focus of the film it gives the brilliant Isiah Whitlock Jr a chance to steal a few scenes from them. He hilariously references “HBO’s The Wire” (of which he starred in) and mimics the iconic Omar from the show to get his friends out of a fix. His gentle and harmless demeanor was the perfect counterbalance to John C Reilly’s outrageous behavior and allowed the film to change pace quickly depending on who Tim was hanging out with. The final member of the convention gang is Joan Ostrowski-Fox played by Anne Heche. Her character was surprisingly complex as she uses the conventions to escape her reality of having a family and is the source of attention for the guys, especially for Pre-engaged Tim.
Overall Miguel Arteta has delivered a fine comedy movie, It shows a great deal of heart and offers plenty of laughs from some very enjoyable characters. It’s better than Youth and Revolt and fans of Helms and Reilly will be rewarded greatly.
Cedar Rapids is out on 29th April and with the hideous Royal Wedding coming up on the same day and like me you need somewhere to escape it, then I encourage you to go spend 90 minutes of the day watching Cedar Rapids.