Ed Helms (star of The Office and The Hangover series) stars as Tim Lippe, a small town insurance agent in Wisconsin. When the star agent of Tim’s office dies in a sexually compromising position, the insurance office sends him to the Cedar Rapids insurance conference to regain its reputation and secure the two diamond award, a yearly prize to the most ethical and “godly” insurance agency. Tim, who has lived such a sheltered life that he has never left his home town, gets taken under the wing of a group of agents led by Dean Zigler, a wild party animal. While at the conference Tim tries unsuccessfully to resist the peer pressure to drink, party and fool around.
Cedar Rapids is an awkward movie that never decides whether it wants to be a gross out party movie in the vein of The Hangover or if it wants to be more along the lines of a dark comedy that takes its small town subjects seriously like Alexander Payne’s great film The Election. As a result the situations paired with the characters don’t seem to fit together. Fortunately the film’s cast are all very well matched in their roles and their performances make the movie interesting and pack enough laughs to call it a comedy.
Ed Helms plays the everyday nice guy role well and somehow he’s also likable when his character inevitably goes wild from pent up frustration. John C Reilly (Step Brothers) is also very comfortable playing the loud mouth doofus that says all the wrong things but again is still charming. Perhaps the most fun character Ronald Wikles, the experienced straight laced insurance agent, is played terrifically by Isaiah Whitlock Jr..
Director Miguel Arteta and screenwriter Phil Johnston populate their story with interesting characters which is certainly the strength of the movie. I appreciate their effort to present characters instead of caricatures. However by doing so the movie became are hard balancing act between the drama and the comedy. I don’t think they quite got the right mixture in place and the tone of the movie just seemed a bit off.
While Cedar Rapids is entertaining, it isn’t memorable. There are certainly enough laughs to make it worth a look for people who like comedies, especially the second half of the film. The laughs are not big enough to be remembered though and the same can be said of the drama in the movie too. While it takes certain aspects of its characters seriously, it doesn’t take the issues seriously enough to really say anything meaningful. In the end Cedar Rapids is an amusing movie upon viewing that will be forgotten soon after turning it off. A perfect movie to watch on a rainy day for some small laughs when there is nothing better to do.
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Justin Buettner is Style's resident movie dude! How did he get this role? Well, he graduated from Loyola Marymount University with a Bachelor of Arts in film Production and a duel minor in Animation and Business with an emphasis in the entertainment field. He later went on to work on several independent films in various key roles including writer and later worked in the special effects field as a motion capture artist. He has since relocated to the Sacramento area with his family and continues writing for small independent films in addition to his movie reviews for Style Magazine.