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Tim Lippe (Helms) was the guy people always thought would go places but then he just ... didn't. He's been living in über-sleepy Brown Valley, Wisconsin his whole life, still "pre-engaged" to his 7th grade teacher Macy Vanderhei (Weaver), while selling insurance to protect other people's dreams. But now, Tim's stalled life is about to get a kick-start because, for the first time in his 34 years, he's headed to a "major" metropolis - Cedar Rapids, Iowa - where he must try to save his company at a do-or-die insurance convention that, for him, will be entirely unconventional. From the minute he checks into his hotel with his ancient American Tourister and cummerbund money belt, it's clear Tim has no idea how the modern world really works. He is soon smitten with seductive Nebraskan insurance agent Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Heche) and awed by his experienced roommates, the straight-shooting Ronald Wilkes (Whitlock Jr.) and the suspicious Dean Zeigler (Reilly). Disheartened when he comes ... Written by
Fox Searchlight Pictures
Greetings again from the darkness. I have said many times that comedies are the most difficult of all film genres since no two people have the same sense of humor. While many people laughed til they cried during "The Hangover", others walked out of the theatre or simply had no interest at all. The same can be said for just about any Mel Brooks movie, as well as his contemporary, Judd Apatow. What we do know, is that a comedy's chance for success comes down to its characters, and in this area, "Cedar Rapids" works like a charm.
Ed Helms (Andy in "The Office") stars as Tim Lippe, the most sheltered, naive mid-western insurance agent ever captured on film. Lippe lives and works in Brown Valley, Wisconsin ... the most sheltered, naive mid-western town ever captured on film. His only real excitement is found through his "pre-engagement" to his 7th grade teacher played very well by Sigourney Weaver (probably the most worldly person in Brown Valley). When an embarrassing accident claims the life of the hot shot agent in Lippe's firm, the owner (Stephen Root) sends Lippe to the annual convention in Cedar Rapids. His mission is to win the coveted 2-Diamond Award presented by industry legend Orin Helgesson (a snippy Kurtwood Smith).
Since a lone character can't generate many laughs, circumstances at the convention cause Lippe to find himself roommates with a very noble Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock, Jr from "The Wire") and fast-talking poacher Dean Ziegler (John C Riley). These 3 are joined together by Nebraska agent Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche). Lippe is quickly introduced to the "real world" by his new friends and after the first 20 minutes of set-up, the lines and settings get funnier and funnier.
As with most comedies these days, the trailer gives away much more than it should; but, unlike most, it leaves plenty of laughs and situations for the film. What really makes this work is that all characters are actually pretty nice people ... they are just a bit exaggerated in their traits. Lippe is a bit too naive. Wilkes is a bit too uptight. Ziegler is a bit too obnoxious, and Fox is just a little too lonely and adventurous. Still, their earnestness is what keeps the film grounded.
Mr. Helms is really a comic force. He has the extraordinary ability to never hold back or worry how that he might not look cool. Even as the lead character, he knows when scene-stealer John C Riley should have the spotlight. This is a tremendous asset for a comic.
I won't give away much, but will warn that some of the humor is crude ... especially some of Riley's rapid-fire one-liners. If you prefer your humor to be grounded with real people, then you might want to check this one out. I have only previously known this director, Miguel Arteta, as the guy responsible for Jennifer Aniston's best screen performance ("The Good Girl"). Now I look forward to his next project.
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