CEDAR RAPIDS – The Review – We Are Movie Geeks



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The journey of an innocent whose eyes are opened after leaving his safe, familiar small town surroundings is a theme that has been in explored in literature ( Candide ) and film ( from MR DEEDS GOES TO TOWN to CROCADILE DUNDEE ). Often the naive hero is the object of ridicule until the sophisticates warm up to him. Other times the hero is liberated by the possibilities this new world offers. The new comedy CEDAR RAPIDS takes several of these themes and comes up with a great addition to the small town fish out of water genre.

Tim Lippe ( Ed Helms ) is a mid-level insurance agent in the sleepy town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. After work he enjoys tending to his modest a home and weekly “afternoon delight ” sessions with his former 7th grade teacher Ms. Vanderhei ( Sigourney Weaver ). Tim believes they are pre-engaged while the newly single Ms. V is not really looking for any commitment. The office of the Brown Valley ASMI affiliate is readying it’s star agent to head off to the company conference in Cedar Rapids and hopefully win a third Silver Diamond sales award. That night Tim is woken up by a panicky phone call from the office owner Bill ( Stephan Root ). Seems the his golden sales boy has died ( under bizarre circumstances ) and Tim has to fill in. The next morning Tim boards his first airplane and arrives at the hotel in Cedar Rapids for the big meeting. There he must share a room with the mild-mannered Ronald ( Isiah Whitlock, Jr. ) and the boisterous party animal Dean ( John C. Reilly ). Later, at the hotel exercise room , Tim meets the alluring Joan ( Anne Heche ) and the president of ASMI, the ultra-conservative Mr. Helgesson ( Kurtwood Smith ). Over the course of the next few days Tim enjoys partying with his new friends and learns that getting the big award is not all that counts in life.

A terrific cast brings this smart script by Phil Johnston to life. In his first leading role Helms ( THE HANGOVER ) proves his can anchor a feature film. Tim Leppe and Andy Bernard ( Ed’s character on TV’s The Office ) share a few nerdy similarities, but Helms brings a lot of pathos to this role especially as he panics the morning after a wild fling with Ms. Joan. Ed’s got a lot of talented comic vets for support here. Stephan Root ( OFFICE SPACE ) scores big laughs as he berates Helms on the phone while attending his daughter’s wedding. Heche pours on the sexiness as the conflicted good-time gal. Smith ( ROBOCOP ) is menacing and smarmy as the intimidating company prez. Whitlock really stands out as the nerdy black dude who can channel his inner gangsta’ when needed. Weaver makes her ” Mrs. Robinson ” type seductress a dry-witted delight. Great support is also provided by Alia Shawkat ( TV’s Arrested Development ) as the good -hearted young hooker Bree and Rob Corddry( HOT TUB TIME MACHINE ) as a bully at a wild party. The real comedy star here may be John C. Relly ( STEP BROTHERS ) as the unbridled id named Dean Ziegler. He explodes into every room witha loud bravado and unsaiticable  appetites for booze and sex. There’s no brake between his brain and mouth. Reilly attacks this role with such joyful vigor that’s we’re surprised by the depth of feeling in scenes where Dean reveals his tragic home life.  The body language that Reilly uses during one pep talk scene is almost worthy of one of the great silent movie comedians. Miguel Arteta ( CHUCK AND BUCK ) is able to contrast the forced formality of the sales meetings with the terrific slapstick party sequences. It’s a well done raucous comedy involving adults acting like wild teens on the road. You may enjoy this journey as much as that babe-in-the-woods, Tim Lippe.

Overall Rating: Four out of Five Stars

Jim Batts was a contestant on the movie edition of TV's "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" in 2009 and has been a member of the St. Louis Film Critics organization since 2013.