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Mitch Hansch/ movieswithmitch.com
Miguel Arteta's "Cedar Rapids" is a film of non-epic proportions. This small film out of Sundance could have just come and gone but a premium mixture of an outstanding group of supporting actors and a genuine sweetness that persistently washes over you makes for a winner. "Cedar Rapids" takes the raunch shenanigans of a "Hangover" and cradles it with the small town values and self-discovery of a Capra film. This doesn't have the emotional punch and scope that "The 40-Year Old Virgin" challenged us with but Artera's focus on characters instead of situations creates humor that will make you happy and sad. Gotta love the sad humor.
A grand supporting player himself, that is up to now, "The Office's" talented Ed Helms takes the lead as Tom Lippe. Lippe is a uber-naive Midwest insurance salesman from the very small town of Brown Valley, Wisconsin. When the top salesman suddenly passes away, the big boss (Stephen Root) hands over the reigns to Lippe to travel to Cedar Rapids, Iowa for the annual insurance convention to bring home the coveted Two Diamonds Award. This will be a trip of firsts for Lippe. Including his first trip to a metropolis that he gets to by taking his first plane ride, where he will stay in his first hotel. While on the plane Lippe endearingly takes the emergency exit seat responsibilities to heart.
Lippe is roomed with convention veterans Ronald Wilkes ( Isiah Whitlock Jr.) and the one man he was warned to stay away from, Dean Ziegler, played by professional scene-stealer John C. Reilly. Reilly ignites the screen instantly with belly laughs as the foul-mouthed party animal Ziegler. Reilly is the pepper to my mothers pork chop; a decent dish by itself but you can never add enough pepper to it. More Reilly pepper please. Rounding out the crew is the goofy sexy Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche). Heche really brings a playful attractiveness that I haven't seen from her in years. Heche captures Joan, a mother of three, who treats these excursions with the attitude of what happens in Cedar Rapids, stays in Cedar Rapids. Heche is funny and dangerous as that sweet woman who seeks out the nerd, making Lippe a prime target.
Small town Lippe of course gets in way over his head where the big lights and characters of Iowa's second city challenges moral convictions. Helms is just right for this role of a man who gets nudged out of the nest but goes kicking and screaming. When Helms flashes that child-like grin it makes you happy and when consequences make for a frown and regretful eyes you're right there with him as well. A hilarious drug addled scene of Lippe screaming "So bummed out" shows Helms is capable of staying in the lead.
Director Arteta is responsible for the squirmy " Chuck & Buck" and fellow Reilly flick "The Good Girl". "Cedar Rapids" might be his best one yet as he delivers a fast paced 86-minute roller coaster ride that never falls off despite loose bolts about to rattle off. When situations get extreme, we're not calling BS because of those sublime characters that were developed along the way. Arteta and scribe Phil Johnston don't quite go for the jugular with the religious satire as much as I'd liked, making for missed opportunities. "Cedar Rapids" makes up for it with it's blessings of fine performances that also include the wonderful Sigourney Weaver and "Arrested Develpments" Alia Shawkat. "Cedar Rapids is a film that may not have the staying power of others but while you're watching you'll be in a better place for it.
"This" will be in a better place for it.
Cedar Rapids is a decent comedy aiming to be Ed Helms's attempt to
segue into leading man status as fellow "Daily Show" reporter Steve
Carell did with "The 40 Year Old Virgin". This is a less successful
attempt, due in large part to some strange story decisions (he's
sleeping with his former teacher, one scene involving illicit drugs
comes out of nowhere and seems like part of a completely different
movie). Ed Helms is funny enough, likable although he lacks Carell's
goofy charm that makes it so easy to look past his quirks. This renders
much of the comedy more awkwardly uncomfortable than it otherwise
should have been.
Anne Heche is the real highlight here, portraying a married woman who uses her annual trips to an insurance convention as an escape from her mundane family life. She is charming, funny, and easy to sympathize with, even if her motivations are entirely selfish. John C. Reilly chews the scenery in an over-the-top performance--a very hit-or-miss performance here. Isiah Whitlock Jr. pulls off his role very well, and he does offer up one of the most hilarious scenes in the film as he attempts to escape from a hostile group of partygoers. Alia Shawkat (excellent on Arrested Development) shines when she's on screen, making me wish the film had focused more on her than it did. Her role as a drug-addled prostitute does eventually lead to some unfortunate plot turns, but Shawkat is able to rise above the material. The same can't be said for Sigourney Weaver, who has the thankless role of former teacher, and while she's entertaining on screen, she seems to be here more for name recognition than anything else.
This is a somewhat entertaining comedy, lacking technical expertise (excruciatingly bad lighting, lackluster cinematography, poor direction and editing) but bearing some bad storytelling decisions. The art direction seems to suggest this film takes place during the 1980s, and had it not been for the cars and cell phones, I would have believed it. Did the costumer design team purposefully hit thrift stores looking for the most unfortunate clothes around? I imagine this was for comedic effect, but it sadly misses the mark and makes the film oddly anachronistic instead.
Cedar Rapids looked like the type of comedy that could go either way.
The trailer seemed to hint at Ed Helms channeling his Stu Price
character from The Hangover. In fact, that was my initial thought
process going in; that Cedar Rapids would probably be an extension of
Helms' character in The Hangover. Other than the trailer being attached
to one film before a screening, I've never seen the film advertised
anywhere else as most haven't seen anything relating to the film at
all. Luckily, the film was able to offer a little more than what it let
on and actually turned out to be a rather solid R-rated comedy.
This shouldn't be a downright comparison between The Hangover and Cedar Rapids though; no matter how blatant it may seem. There is very little in common between the two films other than Ed Helms starring in both films and the crazy occurrences that can transpire under the influence of alcohol (in addition to some sort of hallucinogen, as well). Cedar Rapids is a comedy that is driven by Ed Helms' dorky yet alluring charm.
The cast is easily the film's most valuable asset as the scenes featuring all of the main cast are the most hilarious and the most memorable. Other than Ed Helms nerding it up to perfection, John C. Reilly almost steals the show as the loyal sex-hound Dean Ziggler. This also may be the best Anne Heche has looked in any film she's been a part of. The Cedar Rapids yearly ASMI convention being her character's only means of escaping the redundancy of everyday family life added a bit of depth to her character and made what would otherwise be scandalous actions a little more meaningful. Heche's real charm comes out in the scenes she shares with Helms. Their relationship is one of the driving factors of the film. Isiah Whitlock Jr plays Ronald Wilkes, a man who takes his job as an insurance salesman incredibly seriously but who also lets his dry humor and constant admiration of "the HBO program The Wire" shine at the best of times. Sigourney Weaver's character seemed to catch me off guard. Mostly because when you think of Weaver, you think of Aliens, Ghostbusters, or Avatar. In Cedar Rapids, she plays an on the prowl cougar who teaches and is just looking for a good time. So much for typecasting, eh? Stephen Root, Kurtwood Smith, and Alia Shawkat all have their moments, as well.
Cedar Rapids does have an indie feel to it though, which is probably a fair assessment to make since the film's budget was only $8 million. Cedar Rapids has a Little Miss Sunshine kind of atmosphere to it. Not so much in tone, but more of the way it was filmed. It could be a turn-off for some viewers who aren't fans of movies with small budgets.
Cedar Rapids is easily the funniest film to be released in 2011 so far. The entire cast plays off of each other in the best of ways and even some of the smaller roles given to more recognizable stars are pivotal to the laughs in the film. Unpredictable at times and extremely over the top at others, Cedar Rapids is definitely worth a watch if you enjoy R-rated comedies or films similar to The Hangover or Little Miss Sunshine.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
This film is a foul mouthed fairy tale of friendship and
self-discovery, but it does ask its audience for a big indulgence. You
have to be willing to believe that someone could be so naïve and
sheltered that Cedar Rapids, Iowa could be New York City to their Joe
Buck. If you can buy that and aren't put off by somewhat Fargo-ish
portrayals of Midwesterners, you'll get a lot of laughs out of this
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is an insurance agent from small town Wisconsin who, due to a fatal sexual mishap, is sent to the annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids. His mission is to win the coveted Two Diamonds award for his firm, which Tim's to dorky, 20-years-behind-the-times brain is a challenge on par with climbing Mount Everest or finding a cure for cancer. Almost immediately upon arrival, Tim falls in with a delightfully wrong crowd. There's Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly), a gregarious amalgamation of cursing and inappropriate behavior; Joan Ostrowski-Fox (Anne Heche), a sexy and mischievous woman who uses the annual Cedar Rapids convention as her own personal Las Vegas escape; and Ronald Wilkes (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), who is essentially a more functional, African-American version of Tim.
Facing temptation from his new friends, pressure from his boss (Stephen Root), the allure of a local hooker (Alia Shawkat) and the looming presence of the moralizing convention president, Tim has to learn that there's more to life, love and sex than fooling yourself about being "pre-engaged" to your 7th grade teacher.
While it's not nearly as mannered as Fargo, Cedar Rapids includes a similar take on Midwestern values and social norms. But instead of being about deceit, greed and murder, this is a story of a man having to put aside his underdeveloped, childlike view of himself and the world and become a real grown up. If you can accept that Tim Lippe starts out from such an immature place, this becomes a really entertaining coming of age movie about a guy who should have come of age a long time ago.
The script is full of humor, from Dean Ziegler's crude one-liners to Lippe's alternating unbridled joy and crushing shame at everything from booze to sex to drugs. Anne Heche does a marvelous turn as the woman who finds herself caring about Tim more than she wants. It's a shame that most people probably know Heche from some bad, big budget productions and her weird personal life because she's turned into a very pretty and very talented character actress in little films like this one. John C. Reilly is great, as always, in taking an overblown caricature and finding some way to make you care about him. There are times when Ed Helms seems to be veering off into sketch comedy, but he brings it back under control.
I had a good time visiting Cedar Rapids. I think you'd enjoy making the trip.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a goody insurance agent who's goal in life is
to actually help people. His companion, Roger, is successful and won
the insurance award three times. Tim, in hope of getting an award
himself, took Roger's spot after Roger died to go to the convention in
Cedar Rapids. What happens at Cedar Rapids stays in Cedar Rapids? Well,
Tim sure hoped so, because what Tim did, it was like The Hangover
version but subtract Zach Galifinakis.
Ed Helms plays an emotional guy who had never been out of state and is afraid to use his credit card. And he does it well, considering his role in The Office is quite similar. But the stand-out in this film is how John C. Reilly is a playboy who always talk about girls. Although he doesn't get any, but he's hilarious. The film was helped by the smart writing that made the film almost as funny as The Hangover. Suceeded at the Sundance, Cedar Rapids had made its way into my list of Best Comedy of the Year.
"Cedar Rapids" an independent release comedy certainly brings plenty of
laughs and fun in fact it's one of the better comedy and feel good
movies I've saw recently. After viewing I had a smile on my face and
felt happy with feel good energy. It proves that life is about having
fun and you can still be true to yourself and those around you. Plus
the all star cast had well working chemistry that made the film more
enjoyable to watch.
Set in a small Wisconsin town a nerd and dork of an insurance salesman Tim Lippe(well done by Ed Helms)only has one thing to occupy his time besides selling insurance, and that's being seduced by a former seventh grade teacher of his and that is Macy(Sigourney Weaver who still looks good after all these years!) a serious no commitment professional cougar type. Yet after the local firm's top selling agent dies Tim's world is turned upside down when he's picked to attend a Midwest regional insurance convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. And this will be a big step for the sheltered small town boy Tim who's never traveled to far.
Upon arrival in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the nice hotel suite things seem different and more wide open. As with any new travel entrance and journey new people are encountered and new adventures await as life is all about discovery and exploring. Tim's roommates are like daylight and dark first is veteran Minnesota salesman Ronald Wilkes(a strong turn by Isiah Whitlock Jr.)and he's knowledgeable and serious but helpful. And then you have the wide open and party boy drinker Wisconsin salesman Dean Ziegler(over the top and wildly done by John C. Reilly). Now enter the spice and sugar to the cake Tim encounters Joan(Anne Heche in a very sexy performance especially the pool scene)a free spirited and talkative lady who's not shy about having fun even though she's a married lady with kids. This trio will clearly help Tim open up and come out of his shell. Along the way the late nights, alcohol, and parties are just downright fun and laughable. Neat was also seeing at the hotel club the Jack Nicholson impersonator! Thru it all Tim will learn a lot as a side of him is opened up along the way though he learns still to be truthful to himself and his new trio of friends which will lead to a new path for all of them by the end of the film. "Cedar Rapids" is an excellent feel good comedy with plenty of laughs and feel good fun it proves life is about opening up as it's meant for new friends and new discoveries on each adventure trip one takes. In the process one will learn to to be truthful with themselves and others making for a meaningful lesson after discovering newfound fun and breaking out of a sheltered living like Tim did. Overall a smiling face and thumbs up for "Cedar Rapids" as both the cast and story was excellent and meaningful.
OK. I guess, to be honest, that Cedar Rapids, Iowa (population about
125,000) isn't really a BIG city, but it serves the purpose for this
movie. Ed Helms is Tim Lippe, a child-like, immature insurance salesman
from Brown Valley, Wisconsin (of which there is no such place, although
there is a Browns Valley, Wisconsin) who after the unexpected death of
the insurance agency's top salesman gets sent to Cedar Rapids for an
annual convention and awards ceremony. Tim has never been out of Brown
Valley, and the lure of the big city proves to be a little too much for
On his first night in the city he meets the very friendly Bree (Alia Shawkat) - a local prostitute. At the convention he hooks up with first with Ronald Wilkes (Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.) - his roommate, who scares him to death at first because he's never before seen an African-American! Then he meets the somewhat crude Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly) and finally Joan (Anne Heche), married, but willing to check Tim out so to speak. These five take up most of the screen time in the movie, and in fairness they do pretty well with some pretty silly material to work with.
There's nothing deep about this. It's sometimes funny, but more often it's a little bit crude - not really appealing to my taste in movies, but still enjoyable in places. Tim is a little bit too much the caricature of the innocent, small town boy lost in the big city. His relationship with Macy (Sigourney Weaver) - who was his teacher when he was 12 years old - actually reaches the point of being mildly disturbing when Macy finally breaks up with him over the phone, telling him that baby bird has to fly away from the nest. Right. Too weird. The movie also goes for what now has to surely count as the cheap and easy laugh by once again (as Hollywood loves to do these days) caricaturing hypocritical Christians - because the award the agency wants to win also has something to do with God, and let's just say that everyone involved will go the extra mile for it in spite of what they supposedly believe. That's really just starting to get so tired.
The best scenes are perhaps the pool scene, and also the party scene when Ronald pretends to be a gangster from the hood to get his friends out of some big trouble they had gotten into. So there are some memorably funny scenes in this, meaning it can't be a bad movie. It's just mediocre, a little too over the top with the small town boy routine and too crude for my tastes. (4/10)
"This whole place smells like chlorine, it's like I'm in Barbados."
After being picked to go the the annual insurance agents conference in
Cedar Rapids Ted Lippe (Helms) thinks it's the greatest day in his
life. After meeting a group of veterans including Dean Ziegler (Reilly)
he begins to change his view on life, and the insurance group he works
for. Much like "Elektra Luxx" this week this was not what I expected.
This was also better though. While this does have some very, very funny
parts, this movie is also very moving and will have you pulling for all
the characters to get what they want. Ed Helms is the perfect choice
for this movie. He is great at playing the shy, awkward man that has
the talents to succeed but just can't ever seem to. This character is a
little more toned down then Andy from "The Office", but it's much
closer to him then Stu from "The Hangover". This is not the
laugh-out-loud comedy like in "Hangover" or "Step-Brothers", but if
your looking for a smart, intelligent, heartfelt independent comedy
then this is exactly what you are looking for. Overall a great movie
filled with equal parts humor and heart. Very good movie. I give it an
Would I watch it again? - I would.
*Also try - Cyrus
Ed Helms is on the up and up. Great TV comedy with The Office, great
mainstream comedy with The Hangover and now this. Can this man do no
wrong? In Cedar Rapids he plays Tim Lippe a man who has lived most of
his life sheltered from some of the more harsh or brash realities of
life and people.
Through a twist of fate and a belt(see the movie, I won't say any more) he ends up representing his insurance company at a convention. Here we meet Ronald Wilkes(Isiah Whitlock Jr) a sensible but non risk taking type, Dean Ziegler(John C. Reilly) a wild guy & Joan Ostrowski-Fox(Anne Heche) a bored housewife. The insurance convention seems to be the high point of the year for all 3 of them, not so much for it's professional merits but for the opportunity it gives them to party and escape from the rest of their lives.
Tim meanwhile is anxious about being away from his hometown for the first time with the added pressure of having to secure the 2 Diamond Award which his predecessor won for the last several years for his over domineering and unlikeable boss. What ensues sees the values and preconceptions of the likable but naive Tim tested and opportunities for him to come out of his sheltered shell(ya that makes sense!).
Great supporting cast here too from Stephen Root(nerdy middle aged guy in dodgeball) Kurtwood Smith (Dad in 70s show) Alia Shawkat(young cousin in Arrested Development) & Sigourney Weaver (chick with kid in Ghostbusters!).This movie will leave you with a smile on your face.
'CEDAR RAPIDS': Three and a Half Stars (Out of Five)
Fish out of water small town boy in the big city tale. This one stars Ed Helms (most famous as Stu in 'THE HANGOVER', Andy Bernard on 'THE OFFICE' and a former correspondent on 'THE DAILY SHOW') as a naive insurance agent sent to the big city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa by his company for an important convention there. The film is directed by Miguel Arteta (who also directed such films as 'YOUTH IN REVOLT', 'THE GOOD GIRL' and 'CHUCK & BUCK') and written by first time feature film writer Phil Johnston. The script was on Hollywood's 2009 'Blacklist' of the best unproduced screenplays. The film co-stars John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Stephen Root and Kurtwood Smith.
Helmes plays Tim Lippe, an insurance agent in Brown Valley, Wisconsin. When the top agent at his company dies suddenly, in an explicit sex act, Lippe is sent as his replacement to the big annual insurance convention in Cedar Rapids. He literally knows nothing about big city life and how the modern world works and is quite frightened by most everything upon his arrival. He slowly grows comfortable with his two roommates though (Reilly and Whitlock Jr.) as well as a friendly and flirty female insurance agent (Heche). When he finds himself and his company in trouble he has to rely on his new friends for help.
The film is pretty simple and somewhat slow paced. It's not frequently laugh out loud funny but it does have plenty of good jokes and laughable situations. The real reward of this film is the lovable characters and the impressive cast filling them out with good performances. The film has a good heart as well, although it delivers a pretty simple and predictable message. I have a hard time seeing why the script itself was so well hyped but the performances and characters are worth the price of admission (especially when it's only 5 bucks, like the showing I saw) and the directing is more than adequate as well.
Watch our review show 'MOVIE TALK' at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j95Zjdlcbe0
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