“Cedar Rapids,” the new arthouse comedy from “Youth in Revolt” filmmaker Miguel Artera, provides moviegoers with an excellent excuse to enjoy the comedic talents of its stellar cast but its conventional story seems to hold it back from greatness.
Having said that, “Cedar Rapids” is definitely a good film – a very good one in fact. And anyone with an appreciation for eccentric humor will likely hurt themselves laughing at least a few times over the course of the movie. However, this is largely due to the strength of its quirky characters.
The plot itself is far from a failure but we have seen this story before and it plays out exactly the way we expect it to, without so much as a single surprise. Yet, “Cedar Rapids” is still well worth seeing if only for Artera’s unique view of naivety, perfectly portrayed by star Ed Helms of television’s “The Office.”
Helms plays Tim Lippe, an insurance salesman living in Brown Valley, Wisconsin, whose primary pride in life is his purely animalistic relationship with his former 7th-grade teacher Millie Vanderhei (Sigourney Weaver). But then Tim’s boss (Stephen Root) hands him the opportunity of his career – represent his company during a convention in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Needless to say, the sheltered 34-year-old man feels like a fish out of water, abruptly forced to adapt to what most people would consider to be normal life. Then Tim meets three veteran attendees (John C. Reilly, Isiah Whitlock Jr. and Anne Heche) who take it upon themselves to guide him through the weekend.
From there, “Cedar Rapids” tries to pack on a little more plot by introducing an element of corporate corruption, involving the convention’s leader (Kurtwood Smith). It works but takes a backseat to an otherwise character-driven journey as Tim engages in activities he had dared not even imagine until now.
There is a point shortly after the halfway point of the motion picture at which Tim travels beyond his hotel’s walls to attend a party. It almost feels as though this scene, which comes dangerously close to completely destroying “Cedar Rapids,” was torn from the script of a completely different film.
Fortunately, it is relatively brief and Artera quickly ushers us back to the hotel where the movie’s true charm resides. “Cedar Rapids” kind of excels most when it pairs that aforementioned fish-out-of-water tale with a contained, fish-bowl feel. So long as we are stuck in that bowl with the oddball supporting players and empathizing with the childlike Tim, we are engaged and entertained.
Helms is spectacular, even though he is essentially reprising his role from “The Office.” Those supporting players are just as great, with Reilly providing plenty of laughs from start to finish. And there is much more where those came from So, although its storyline is not exactly novel, “Cedar Rapids” sustains on the effect it has on your funny-bone.
“Cedar Rapids” (R – 86 minutes) is now playing exclusively at Harkins Camelview 5. Visit NCM.com for specific showtimes.
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