Cedar Rapids is a sweet, but never sappy, comedy from director Miguel Arteta, who specializes in small films, usually comedies, which are almost anti-Hollywood in the way they allow humor to come naturally from well-developed characters rather than contrived jokes. Like his previous efforts, The Good Girl and the underrated 2009 film Youth in Revolt, Arteta casts well-known actors against type and allows them to develop their characters while showing off previously unexplored sides of their acting range. Even with actors that are well-known to mainstream audiences, Cedar Rapids flew under the radar, quietly slipping in and out of theatres in early 2011 while mediocrity continued its reign at the box office.
Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, an insurance agent for Brown Star Insurance in Brown Valley, Wisconsin. Tim is a simple and naïve, but good-hearted man, completely out of touch with the modern world. He is "pre-engaged" to his seventh-grade teacher Macy Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver) and is oblivious to the world outside of Brown Valley. After a co-worker dies under mysterious circumstances, Tim's boss, Bill Krogstad (Stephen Root), sends him to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to represent the agency and claim the prestigious Two Diamonds Award. Upon his arrival, Tim befriends fellow insurance agents Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and the hard-partying Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), while finding himself smitten with Joan (Anne Heche). Yielding both hilarious and heartfelt results, Tim is introduced to situations he never imagined he'd find in Brown Valley, Wisconsin.
Other familiar faces include Kurtwood Smith (as the ultra-religious president of the convention) and Rob Corddry (in a short, but amusing cameo). Probably the most light-hearted film Arteta has directed, some will still label it a "dark comedy" due to its willingness to disregard political correctness and develop characters truthfully. I've often thought of Arteta as "Alexander Payne-lite" as his distinct, off-beat style seems cut from the same stylistic cloth as the films of Alexander Payne. This similarity was never more apparent to me while watching Cedar Rapids and I was surprised to learn, when the credits rolled, that Payne and his frequent writing partner, Jim Taylor, are actually two of the film's producers. Arteta's direction and style lend a lot to the quality of the film, but that's not to diminish the influence of Phil Johnston's script, which made the 2009 Hollywood Blacklist of the best unproduced screenplays. The script is a marvel in the way it features strong, funny, and deeply human characters with only a so-so story to push them forward. There's nothing particularly bad about the script, it's just a fairly straight-forward story that reaches a fairly standard conclusion. This small criticism aside, it's still more touching and clever than any comedy I've seen this year.
One must give credit to the terrific cast for frequently elevating the quality of the material. Helms doesn't get the chance to expand his range very much with Tim, but he does offer another side of the introverted, passive, and awkward character he's made his name playing before. Whitlock Jr. almost steals the show with his performance as Ronald, possibly being the only actor (or person even) who can elicit a laugh from saying "The HBO series `The Wire.'" Heche does a nice turn with her role, as does Weaver, who brings more class and humor to her small role than most actresses would have. There is a lot of talent in front of the camera, but Reilly's performance alone is enough for me to recommend the film. Loud, rude and hilariously funny, Reilly brings enough comedic energy, heart, and colorful use of the English language to make a separate film.
Cedar Rapids is an intelligent, low-key film that quietly sneaks up on you and charms with an equal amount of heart and wit. It's much more satisfying and genuinely funny than a large percentage of Hollywood comedies being pushed into local cinemas each week and it boasts a terrific cast doing some fantastic, dynamic work. It fits more heart and humor into its 87-minute running time than most big comedies do with more than twice that.
on June 3, 2012
This movie is just... under-rated. I don't think it caused much buzz at the box office - not necessarily a bad thing. I guess these off-kilter comedies that rely on 'sophisticated irony' (yeah, bet you never thought you'd see THOSE two words together) tend to be overlooked in favour of simplistic slapstick.
But hey, why am I bothering? Isn't it really worth a 1 star? I mean at first it feels like a b-grade comedy with desperate jokes that fall flat on their face, and kinda one-dimensional characters who either are stiff nerds or who just belch, fart and swear? Well, so it seems.
But with closer inspection, Cedar Rapids delivers the goods... and then some. Tim Lippe is one of this most hilarious send-ups of a social mal-adjust you'll ever see, and his on-screen chemistry with Dean Ziegler (John C Reilly) produces fireworks.
Yet, in a subtle, almost invisible way the film is actually quite moving. The characters are far deeper than they at first appear, and this film is a deep analysis of human understanding of right and wrong, with an uproariously funny main plot.
You're left with a brilliant movie that gets better with each watch, worth picking up.
on May 28, 2011
I've been an Ed Helms fan for awhile and have wanted to see this for some time. I can say it does not disappoint. What a strong cast too with John C. Reilly and Anne Heche. Along with others that really bring it all together. I wouldn't call it a full out whacky silly movie. It's got this "indy" feel to it with just a great balance of comedy and things many can relate to. If you like those badly written mainstream comedies then this may not be for you but for those that like some "indy" in your movie then you can't go wrong.
on July 29, 2011
I enjoyed this movie. It was funny but not laugh out loud funny in many places.
As one who has attended many such sales conventions, I recognized many of
the characters. The "newbie" who is led astray by the party hardy crowd but
triumphs in the end... The friendships forged by initial forced togetherness...
I recommend it.
on June 30, 2011
It's offbeat and may not be for everyone but this is a well written movie with a great cast. I laughed all the way through and also thought it had a warmth that could have been missing from a comedy like this.
on June 25, 2011
It seems that every now and then a small movie makes big noise. They're usually an independent film that was made for almost no money, if they're lucky they get a star or two and they become noticed at film festivals. CLERKS was one such film and so was LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE. So when I heard that CEDAR RAPIDS was this years talked about indie film I wondered if it was true or not. Yes, the movie lives up to its reputation. It's hilarious.
Ed Helms (of HANGOVER and THE OFFICE fame) stars as Tim Lippe, a modest insurance salesman in a small town who was destined for great things but never seemed to get there. His life is rather hum drum, he's never been anywhere outside of this small town and the thrill of his life is his girlfriend Macy (Sigourney Weaver), his old 7th grade teacher.
Currently he plays second fiddle to Roger, the top guy who has always represented the company well at the national convention, bringing them back 2 Double Diamond trophies in a row. When Roger is found hung with his own belt in an act of autoerotic asphyxiation, Tim is selected as his replacement. The company's owner Bill (Stephen Root) gives him advice and books him in a room with a safe fellow insurance salesman.
Unfortunately the best laid plans...
His roommate Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) and he are upgraded to a suite since the hotel overbooked. Unfortunately they have to take in a third party and that person is Dean Zeigler (John C. Reilly), a wild man that Bill warned Tim to stay away from. As is usually the case, Dean isn't quite as bad as Bill made him out to be even if he is a horn dog and a guy who likes to have far too much fun.
As the threesome gets acquainted they're joined by Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), another insurance salesperson who knows everyone but Tim. The four become fast friends as the film progresses and find themselves in various predicaments.
As Tim attempts to become one of the boys, he finds friendships tested and his morals questioned due to a twist in his plans he didn't account for. He finds himself forced to question a few of his beliefs, to open himself up to the world outside of his small town and to basically grow up. Through it all he makes some fantastic life long friends.
I know, an insurance salesman convention doesn't sound like the most interesting thing on the planet. But the fact is that these characters are likeable, crazy, fun, interesting and more complex than you would think. The spots they find themselves in are funny at times and touching at others. These characters are ones you'd like to have a drink with.
The film offers some great writing and directing as both bring out the best in these actors. I've not seen Heche do a character as well as she does Joan, a woman in what could be a loveless marriage who makes the convention a time to let loose. Reilly has this character down pat having played similar ones before. There was no way anyone else could have played this character. And Whitlock does a great turn here as a straight laced salesman who has a side he rarely lets anyone else see.
But the central character here of Tim as played by Helms is great. He could have gone for goofy, he could have overdone the aw shucks attitude. But Helms plays it straighter than that and the character of Tim Lippe is better off for it. You first think of him as a buffoon but by the end of the film come to care about him deeply.
CEDAR RAPIDS proves one thing. You don't have to have a mega-million dollar budget to make a great movie. You just have to make something original, something entertaining and something that will make people laugh. This film does all three and does them well.
Ed Helms finally gets a chance here to lead a comedic film even with the known and included antics/names of John Reilly, Rob Corddry, Thomas Lennon, Stephen Root, Alia Shawkat, and Kurtwood Smith. He was believable and the writing made for a legitimate comedy without having to be stupid and unfunny like some other titles released this quarter with $20 million stars.
The quirky tale follows an unexposed-to-the-real-world insurance salesman as he travels to a big convention where he learns to grow out of his shell. The process is fun to watch and the comedy can be dry, slightly drug-induced, but always revelatory and sharp. The Blu clarity is great as is the sound, and even though there are a few falters infrequently with the darks and low colors, overall the preservation is solid. The supplements are great and give this product an over-5-star rating:
* Deleted scenes, 7 @ 7:19 minutes. To see any Sigourney Weaver scenes end up on the floor is tough, and the comedy they removed was funny - should have all been in the film.
* Gag reel, 4:17 minutes. Not as funny as I had hoped.
* Convention Connection, 6 @ 13:19 minutes with a play all. The six main characters talk about their time on the set, the comedy and their characters...worth the watch.
* Mike O Malley, Urban Clogger, 2:55 minutes. The work put into the dancing segment of the talent show.
* Tweaking USA, 6:13 minutes. A behind the scenes of what went into the party sequence - if you are a fan of Corddry here is your supplement. He is in this for more minutes than in the film - and funnier.
* Crashing a Lesbian Wedding, 4:16 minutes. The production that went into making the wedding crasher scene.
* Top Notch commerical, 1:16 minutes. A lodef bloody ad that showcases Helm selling insurance, slightly funny.
* Director interview, 6:37 minutes, lodef. Fox Movie Channel supplement with the obligatory footage and promo stuff.
* Writer interview, 6:47 minutes. Same thing and specs as prior segment.
* Disc 2, digital copy.
English and Spanish tracks with subs in same and French also. Region coded A. A recommendation for those wanting a funny film but in a quirky/well-written kind of way without going down the Due Date/Hall Pass crotch humor path.
on September 1, 2011
This is a great movie that saw limited release, a little over 450 theaters.
You can read the summary of the film on other reviews or here in the Amazon description. I caught it on one of its last weekends at our local art theater. I was wonderfully surprised.
"Cedar Rapids" is full of solid acting performances, great laughs and has to go down as one of the more quotable movies of all time. There are those here who have given their 1-star reviews and that's fine. But it's disappointing to know that they weren't entertained by a movie that is this entertaining.
There seems to be a new breed of gentle, almost "indy" feel films these days: "Cedar Rapids" "Everything Must Go" "Whip It" "Win Win" "Juno." Most importantly, these films are about characters, and Tim Lippe, our hero in "Cedar Rapids", is a character you will care about.
Get the movie. You won't be disappointed.
on December 22, 2012
Anyone who works in sales, especially insurance will have a hoot. The characters are memorable. Definitely not a family movie as there are plenty of adult situations and humor. The story line is weak, but if you watch it coming from the point of a view of "peaking in" on the goings on of a group of wacky, everyday folks you'll find the fun. Feels like watching The Office, but not as good.
I really expected to watch this for about fifteen minutes, find myself bored silly, and ready to watch something else. Instead, after fifteen minutes, I knew I'd be watching the whole thing because its gentle charm had taken hold over me.
Ed Helms plays Tim Lippe, an insurance agent for Brown Star Insurance in Brown Valley, Wisconsin. Tim is a bit of a dork. He is the epitome of being a nice guy without having a bit of polish or pizazz about himself. He unexpectedly finds himself being sent by his company to the "big city" for an insurance event. This big city is Cedar Rapids, Iowa. There he meets a motley crew of other agents who succeed in loosening him up some. Chief among these is the the wonderful actor John C. Reilley, who personifies every stereotype about insurance agents imaginable. He is hilarious. Close behind him is Isiah Whitlock Jr. playing a black insurance agent who spends most of his free time doing community theater. Anne Heche rounds out the trio by being a femme fatal married insurance agent who is always on the make at these out of town conventions. Presiding over this annual event is Kurtwood Smith as the ultra-religious president of the convention whom Reilley constantly assails for besmirching insurance with religion (one of this best comedic bits).
All in all, a very enjoyable movie which deserves a wider audience than it got in the theaters. I recommend you give it a try.
Visit my blog with link given on my profile page here or use this phonetically given URL (livingasseniors dot blogspot dot com). Friday's entry will always be weekend entertainment recs from my 5 star Amazon reviews in film, tv, books and music. These are very heavy on buried treasures and hidden gems. My blogspot is published on Monday, Wednesday & Friday.