Cedar Rapids


By Gary Murray

Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly and Anne Heche

Written by Phil Johnson

Directed by Miguel Arteta

Running time 95 min

MPAA Rating R

Selig Film Rating Cable

Ed Helms was not a part of the beginning of The Office but he has put his stamp on the epic TV show. This former 'reporter' on The Daily Show has been landing some solid roles in the last few years with his biggest accomplishment being The Hangover. His first major starring role is in the independent comedy Cedar Rapids.

The story is of Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) an insurance agent in a small town where everybody knows everybody. He is the kind of guy who has never been out of his little hamlet, never wanting to venture from his nest. Though he's a good guy, there are some little glimpses that his world is not sweet. Tim is having a love affair with his former teacher Macy (Sigourney Weaver) new on the singles scene.

The agency he works for has won a prestigious Two Diamond Award from the ASMI, a group that promotes family values as their code of conduct. The owner wants another win and wants it badly. His top salesman is to go to Cedar Rapids to the ASMI convention and convince the board that they deserve another award. When the salesman dies unexpectedly, Tim is drafted to go to the big city and win that prize.

It is Tim's first time in an airplane and his first time in Cedar Rapids. When he gets to the hotel, he is roomed with Dean Ziegler (John C, Reilly). He is your basic stereotype of an insurance salesman, brash and loud. Tim has been told to stay away from Ziegler at all costs because he is a poacher, stealing other clients. Soon Tim also befriends Joan (Anne Heche) a woman who uses the convention as a means to have fun away from home. As the meetings goes on, they have silly convention fun like an Amazing Race game and a talent competition. Tim is so clueless that he doesn't realize that Bree, the kid just hanging outside, is actually a working girl.

The film Cedar Rapids is of Tim's falling down the rabbit hole, getting involved with the darker side of life. By the time we get to the end, Tim has crossed over from good times to scary behavior. He also discovers that the people he thought he knew are not exactly the way they appear to be.

Ed Helms is just brilliant with the character of Tim Lippe. Though it is just a degree off from his character from The Office, he does the wide-eyed innocent as if he has been doing this role his entire life. While the downward spiral does make narrative sense, it is emotionally disturbing. He does things that seem so out of character from the beginning persona. The ending is almost a Pandora's Box where one is never going to get Tim back to his innocent ways.

John C. Reilly is basically playing a version of the character he's done in countless movies for the last few years. He is brash and loud, without an edit button in his brain. Though he is set-up to be our villain, he is just a brutish lout, loveable to a fault.

Surprisingly Anne Heche does the most with her character. She finds a sweet sadness with her Joan, a woman who finds that life is a marathon and that there are actually people who believe in what they are doing. More of the anchor in the mayhem, she brings a spirit to the table–a reason more than a reaction.

The problem with the Cedar Rapids falls upon the script. It is a wildly chaotic mess but not in a good way. Writer Phil Johnson is never really sure what kind of film he's going for. At times it is a Superbad style gross-fest and at times is has the sad melancholy of a static independent feature. It is never as funny as one expects it to be and bad behavior without character doesn't hold together for very long.

The other problem with Cedar Rapids is the overall look of the feature. It swims in a sea of mucky brown and greens without finding any brightness. Director Miguel Arteta is going for the basic look of an early 1970's film, but not in a good way. His grainy choice of film stock gives the entire production the look of a low-budget art house from decades hence. While trying to make it feel classic, it comes across as dated.

Cedar Rapids is less than the sum of its parts. It is not as funny nor as cleaver as one expects. More than being a comic gem, it is more of a comic stone. While it does generate some good performances, it never sustains some hard-core laughs. Cedar Rapids is, simply put, not a great comic ride.

Written By
More from Gary Murray
CLOUDS OF SILS MARIA By Gary Murray Starring Juliette Binoche, Kristen Stewart...
Read More
0 replies on “Cedar Rapids”