Movie Review - Cedar Rapids

Ed Helms was one of the hilarious guys featured in the blockbuster comedy The Hangover (2009). Helms played Stu Price, the henpecked, tooth-losing dentist. Helms is also part of the comedy ensemble, NBC series The Office. He plays Andy Bernard. Cedar Rapids is Ed Helms' first leading role and if this film is any indication, hopefully, it won't be his last.
Helms is Tim Lippe, a charming and sweet, if only somewhat naive, insurance salesman. He's almsot the exact opposite to Roger, played by Thomas Lennon, who is an insurance salesman that is egotistical, ruthless and corrupt, yet everybody loves him. For the past couple of years, Roger has given the presentation that has earned his firm of BrownStar Insurance, the coveted Two Diamond Award.
Once it's obvious that Roger won't be giving the presentation this year, Tim is sent to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, in Roger's place. What's nice is the way that Helms maintains Tim's childlike wonder and awe of Cedar Rapids, making his reaction similar to that of Stu's reaction to Las Vegas. In fact, Tim's awe of the standard hotel in Cedar Rapids is almost greater than Stu's awe of Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas strip. No question he's an adult who's smart and who does adult things like have sex, but there's a purity in his appreciation of things, if only countered with a slight ignorance. This breeds a timidity within Tim.
After arriving, Tim meets a series of insurance agents, all of whom with their own quirks and comical personalities. The first is Ronald Wilkes, played by Isiah Whitlock, Jr., who is a stoutly and reserved man, but who has an odd fascination with the character of Omar from HBO's The Wire. The second is Dean Ziegler, played by John C. Reilly. Dean is a ball of energy. His demeanor is a mix of business shark and college frat boy. Dean is a self-described blowhard and jag-off. Last but not least is Joan Fox, played by Anne Heche, a woman who lives by the philosophy that what happens in Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids. She's very flirtatious and somewhat cynical.
She's almost the ying to Tim's yeng. Joan calls Tim a dweeb and by comparison to her and to all the other agents Tim is uptight and nervous, and a bummer. It's not that he's a total bummer. He simply has a more optimistic outlook that's guided by a bit stricter moral code. He sees Bree, played by Alia Shawkat (Arrested Development), on the corner asking men if they want to have a good time, and he doesn't think what most adults would, that she's a hooker.
It's not that he's totally oblivious. He just assumes the best, even when it comes to someone who doesn't deserve it. When it comes to insurance agents in general, most people think lowly of them, but not Tim. He sees them as heroes.
But, what Tim comes to realize is that there aren't as many heroes as he thought. Screenwriter Phil Johnston's story focuses on Tim's disillusionment as anything else. This movie came in the wake of the Golden Globes where Ricky Gervais pointed out how the award show might be susceptible to bribes. It was a funny joke. Johnston seems to take that joke and flesh it out in a sound satire.
Director Miguel Arteta (The Good Girl and Youth in Revolt) takes care of all his characters to make them more than just caricatures, even Sigourney Weaver who has a small role is given care. Yes, there's over-the-top zaniness at moments alongside uncomfortable naked humor, but I feel like it's balanced well with a story about integrity and friendship. If I ever fell, I would love for these guys to say to me, "We got you!" In Tim, we see a kitten evolve into a tiger and it's one feline I'd dance with.
Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for crude adn sexual content, language and drug use.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 27 mins.


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