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CEDAR RAPIDS (review)

Produced by Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, Ed Helms
Written by Phil Johnston
Starring Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Isiah Whitlock Jr.,
Kurtwood Smith, Stephen Root, Sigourney Weaver,
Alia Shawkat, Mike O’Malley
Directed by Miguel Arteta


Director Miguel Arteta’s (Youth in Revolt (2009), The Good Girl (2002)) new flick, Cedar Rapids, features some of the hottest names in camp: Ed Helms, John C. Reilly, Anne Heche, Rob Corddry, and even Sigourney Weaver.

But, surprisingly, the film isn’t the slapstick comedy the trailers have made it out to be.

It’s more like Lost in Translation in terms of style and mood, but seesaws between that and the more obvious white-bread comedies.

The plot is a basic “fish out of water” story, following Tim Lippe (Ed Helms, The Office, The Hangover) as he travels to represent his small-town insurance company at an Iowa convention following the death of his company’s star salesman.  Once arriving at the convention he befriends three convention regulars, all of whom are opposites with nothing in common other than their work in the insurance field. However, the group immediately bonds and become steadfast friends.

About the film, one could say that Rapids is slow, which it is, but it’s not boring. One could say that this ground has been covered before, which it has, but it did say something worth hearing. One could say that the movie should be funnier, and it could be. There are great laughs and hilarious moments but there are a lot of other things going on in the film in between them. If this film suffers from anything, it’s that it doesn’t entirely commit to being one type of movie.

As far as acting, sadly, the weakest link in the cast is Helms himself – which is personally disappointing, as he was the main draw pulling me into the theater. But, it’s not entirely his fault.

In the script the character of Tim is a carbon copy of Andy, Helms’ character in The Office; as far as I could tell, the only difference between the two characters are the names. It’s the peripheral characters that really make this movie shine. Anne Heche plays the tempting girl next door with a little bit of a dark side, and I think everyone can understand why Andy…I mean, Tim… falls for her. I also absolutely LOVED Isiah Whitlock Jr. and his über-nice-guy character.

However, John C. Reilly really takes the cake in this movie, giving the funniest performance I’ve seen him give to date – he’s worth the ten-dollar ticket on his own.  It was also nice to see Alia Shawkat (Maeby from Arrested Development) in anything, even if she’s playing a somewhat random role as a prostitute working the convention.

I really want to give the movie a rave review.

While it’s definitely an above-average movie, it had the potential to be so much more. Had the script really given Helms something to sink his teeth into, this could have been his Man on the Moon or Punch Drunk Love.

Instead we get a pretty good drama with some great comedic elements, but one that ultimately falls short of anything Oscar-worthy or groundbreaking.

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