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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Movie Review: CEDAR RAPIDS


Cedar Rapids is a 2011 comedy directed by Miguel Arteta. It follows Tim Lippe (Ed Helms), a naïve insurance salesman from a small town in Wisconsin, who is sent to Cedar Rapids for an annual insurance salesman convention in the hopes that he can help his firm win the coveted two-diamond award. We learn rather early on how repressed Tim actually is - for example, until his trip to Cedar Rapids, he had never once set foot on a plane. When he gets to the convention's hotel, he meets his two roommates: Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) and Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly). Ronald is a business-oriented man with a string of goals, and Dean is a party-first, work-later type of guy. Together, they attempt to bring Tim out of his shell. On the first night, they take him to a bar where he meets Joan (Anne Heche). As the two get to know each other, an attraction starts to grow, ultimately leading to their spending the night together. Upon waking the next morning, Joan informs Tim that his insurance company's previous lead salesman (Thomas Lennon, in a cameo) had to pay handsomely to win the two-diamond award, causing Tim to question whether it was worth the effort to grab the honor through such dirty schemes. When he learns that his company is being sold to another owner, Tim sets out to expose the corruption within the insurance conglomerate hosting the convention.

I'm going to start with acting because I think that's where Cedar Rapids mostly succeeds. Helms is good enough for us to actually care about his character from time to time, but he's nowhere near the comic brilliance he brought to 2009's The Hangover. I have a feeling Helms may very well end up being like Paul Rudd - a comic actor who can be brilliant in supporting roles but only so-so as a lead. Our other big three - Whitlock, Reilly and Heche - all do very well. Whitlock has one or two scenes that are downright hilarious, but he's otherwise a little unnecessary. I'm normally not a fan of Reilly, so it took quite a bit for me to fall into his wily charms. By the end of the flick, however, I didn't completely hate him, so that's saying quite a bit. Heche is also very good and may provide the best performance in the film. We've also got a slew of good performances from our smaller roles. Be watching for the supporting roles from Alia Shawkat, Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, Mike O'Malley and Sigourney Weaver, and for the cameos from the aforementioned Lennon and Rob Corddry.

I did have some issue with the screenplay. I felt like it was a little bit stale, in that, I never really had an question as to its direction. It all seemed rather predictable, but that's really neither here nor there. The real problem is that the movie just isn't all that funny. The jokes just didn't really get me laughing. Sure, I chuckled here and there, but there wasn't a slew of top-rate comedy all throughout. When you're marketing a movie as a comedy, this proves to be a problem. If you want people to laugh during your movie, you should probably make it funny enough to actually make them laugh. To be fair, I did go see this alone, and there were only two other people in the theater. I usually don't watch comedies on my own because you don't laugh as much as you do when you're with a group of people. That could've been the problem, but the best comedies will make you laugh regardless. So good try, I suppose, but I just couldn't find much of the humor to be all that funny.

Cedar Rapids is by no means a bad film, but it's not really one that you should be jumping out of your seat to go see. It has its moments, and it's definitely full of heart, but on the whole, it's not going to stand the test of time. Whether that's good or bad, I do not know. I do think that you should see this with more than just yourself because it's not a movie you're going to laugh at on your own. I do have clear biases against John C. Reilly as well, so that probably aided in the fact that I didn't find it all that funny. However, if you're into his brand of humor, Cedar Rapids might be right up your alley.

Movie Review Summary:
Grade: C
0.5 Thumbs Up

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