Rated R for crude and sexual content, language and drug use, 86 minutes
“Cedar Rapids” is low-key but sincere fun
The new comedy “Cedar Rapids” may seem billed as a cross between TV’s “The Office” and “The Hangover,” but it strikes its own chords of unassuming hilarity. Good-natured, but unpredictable, its fish-out-of-water story is overly familiar but still well-acted by all the principals, including “The Office’s” Helms and scene-stealer John C. Reilly.
To call insurance agent Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) "naive" is a gross understatement. He's never left his small Wisconsin hometown. He's never flown in an airplane or stayed at a hotel. And he's never experienced anything like Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Sent to the "major metropolis" to represent his company at an annual insurance convention, Tim is soon distracted by three convention veterans (John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock Jr.) who will show him how it works but also push a few of his buttons. For a guy who plays everything by the book, this convention will be anything but conventional.
“Cedar Rapids” is a sweet, low-key and offbeat comedy with its heart in the right place. It’s easy to make comparisons with “The Office” with Helms leading the cast, and while some of it has to do with corporate relationships, it’s more about finding yourself outside of the corporate structure. It’s directed by Miguel Arteta, the guy who directed equally offbeat comedies in “Chuck and Buck” and “The Good Girl” and the colorful characters seem to fit Arteta well.
Helms grounds the ensemble comedy film very capably and shows his comic skills and his character undergoes the most changes of the four leads. Reilly comes in and nearly steals the show as the film’s most loathsome but funny character as a slimeball insurance sales that he’s seemingly born to play. Helms, Reilly, Heche and character actor Whitlock (seen most notably in HBO’s “The Wire”) all work well together with a warm chemistry.
The touching film’s observations on middle America may resonate with some, though others may feel the story is too familiar and obvious. Whatever the case, you’ll come away with a smile on your face.
Wes's Grade: B