Cedar Rapids

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Movie review by Neil Sadler

Starring: Ed Helms, John C Reilly, Anne Heche, Sigourney Weaver, Rob Corddry, Stephen Root, Isiah Whitlock Jr, Kurtwood Smith, Alia Shawkat
Director: Miguel Arteta

The key to understanding what type of film CEDAR RAPIDS is, is in the name of one of the producers, one Alexander Payne, the director of ELECTION and SIDEWAYS. CEDAR RAPIDS owes more to the bittersweet comedies of Alexander Payne than say the comedies of Will Ferrell or Judd Apatow.

CEDAR RAPIDS tells the story of Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) a naive insurance salesman from a small town who is chosen to attend an important conference in said Cedar Rapids. Never having left his home town he is soon drawn into the debauchery and deviousness of the conference circuit.

Ed Helms is a good innocent. His role here differs little from his role in THE HANGOVER but he is an endearing character on which to hang this tale. This is a much more subtle character and a much more subtle film – even if sometimes it does veer into the cruder areas of Ferrell and Goldberg. There is a lot of fun to be had in the fish out of water

Surrounding the Lippe character are a bunch of supporting characters mainly to do with the conference. John C. Reilly plays a less exaggerated leering buffoon than usual, Anne Heche plays a flirty delegate and is surprisingly endearing, but her character and story don’t really develop. The Wire’s Isiah Whitlock Jr, plays a moral compass that tries to keep Lippe on the straight and narrow. And finally, although in a very peripheral role, we have Sigourney Weaver in a cameo role of sorts, as Lippe’s mismatched lover back home. It is a strange part and Weaver is effortlessly charismatic.

They are a reasonably endearing bunch although for the most part these are shades of characters we have seen before. If anything the film seems like an overlong episode of a TV sitcom – but one where we have missed out some of the character development. It feels like there is more to explore with all the characters but sadly we never get the chance.

Cheekily offensive – it is played with just enough heart that you can forgive its rough edges but it plays a fairly predictable course.

True – there are some laugh out loud bits, some heart-warming bits and some slight moments of tension but rather like Lippe’s hometown of brown valley itself, it all seems a bit familiar and safe to want to spend too long there and it is unlikely to be a place you want to visit more than once.

3 out of 6 stars